Odds and ends number 88

As you might guess, the mailbox groans with new items when it’s election time. So this is a fresh edition of stuff I can deal with in a sentence to a few paragraphs.

I regret not bringing one of these items up a few months back when it came out, but as we get ready for state elections there are two key pieces from the Maryland Public Policy Institute that voters should not miss.

First of all, you all know that I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project for several years, with this year’s intention to wrap up that work.** While it doesn’t evaluate individual voters or bills like my evaluation does, their 2018 Annapolis Report is a useful, broad look at the overall picture and where it can stand some improvement in the next term, It’s nice work by Carol Park and our own Marc Kilmer.

It seems like a new Democrat strategy (besides cutting and running to Virginia) to combat Larry Hogan’s effective campaign is to talk down the state’s economy, but Park puts the lie to that in a more recent piece. Notes Park:

(I)t may be more helpful to look at Maryland’s future economic prospects than to focus on the historical figures to assess the validity of Jealous’s claim. After all, 2015–2017 was a period of strong growth nationally, so it may not be fair to attribute every aspect of improvement of Maryland’s economy to Hogan, nor may it be fair to criticize him for perceived shortcomings relative to other states.

There are a number of indicators that macroeconomists consider important for predicting a region’s long-term economic growth prospects: wage, entrepreneurship, innovation, and income inequality. We can look at these figures one-by-one to assess whether Maryland is in fact faring poorly compared with other states in the Mid-Atlantic region under Gov. Hogan.

It turns out Maryland isn’t doing so bad after all according to the selected figures. Now I know the whole deal about lies, damned lies, and statistics, but if you ask almost any Marylander whether he or she is better off than they were four years ago, the answer would likely be yes – unless you work for the federal government, in which case times may be a bit difficult. If – and this is a really, really big if considering we are over two years out – the Republicans can maintain their grip on Congress for the next two cycles and President Trump is re-elected – we may see a significant rightsizing of government that will likely put Maryland into recessionary status given our addiction to the federal crack pipe of taxpayer money and government jobs. (I’ve said it before – if not for the federal government, Maryland would be *pick your chronically high unemployment state.*) It will be painful, but it is necessary.

The MPPI also pointed out that small businesses will be able to take advantage of a modest tax break made necessary by the adoption of paid sick leave. (I say modest because it’s a pool of $5 million – as originally envisioned, the pool was far larger and assisted more employers. Both those provisions were killed or watered down in committee.)

Sliding over to another campaign, Dr. Ben Carson called him “a true patriot who has served our nation and made personal sacrifices for its well being.” But before he debated his two most prominent foes for the U.S. Senate seat on Sunday (more on that in a few paragraphs) Tony Campbell had one simple request: Pray.

This campaign is David vs. Goliath.  As a dear friend of mine told me this week, our job is to be in position to take advantage of God’s providential miracle.  Your prayers are crucial for our campaign’s success.

Now before the anti-“thoughts and prayers” crowd has a cow, they need to explain to me what harm comes from prayer. If it’s in the Lord’s plan to give Maryland a far more sane representative than that which we have now, why not give encouragement that thy will be done?

From calling on the Lord to calling out larceny: that’s the segue I make for the next item.

One minor topic that takes up a couple pages in my forthcoming book on the TEA Party is a look at the “scam PACs” that started up in the wake of Citizens United, conning well-meaning small donors into supporting the lavish consulting fees of companies related to the overall PAC rather than the candidates or causes they purported to support. A three-part series from the Capital Research Center called Caveat Donator delves into that topic as well, and is worth the read.

Back to that Senate debate. I have found my way onto Neal Simon’s mailing list, and his spin doctors were ready:

Throughout the one-hour debate, Simon focused much of his criticism on Cardin’s lack of leadership in moving forward legislation that focuses on Maryland’s interests. Simon went on the offensive right out of the gate, painting a picture of a career-focused politician focused on placating the party leadership and cow-towing to establishment donors in order to keep his job. Cardin’s voting record is the most partisan of all current sitting senators as he has voted with Chuck Schumer more than 97 percent of the time.

When referring to the numerous internal threats and dangers facing America today, Simon said, “I’m not sure which is most dangerous, Trump’s Twitter feed or Ben Cardin’s rubber stamp.”

As I watched the debate, I noticed it was Simon who was the more aggressive toward Cardin, which is to be expected because he really has to swing for the fences now. There’s a month to close what’s a 40-plus point deficit between him and “our friend Ben” (who’s no friend of common-sense voters.) To that end, Simon is emphasizing Cardin’s fealty to Democrat leadership based on voting record.

But we need to pray for Tony to get another bite of the apple because his debate performance was “meh…” Whoever prepped him needs to step up his or her game because there were a couple “deer in the headlights” moments for Tony – on the other hand, while Simon seemed scripted he was very personable. Cardin was his normal low-key self, almost like “okay, I have to do this debate, let’s get it over with.” But he was more or less prepared for what he would get.

The best possible scenario for this race involves Republicans staying loyal while slyly inviting their Democrat friends to send a message to Cardin by voting Simon – after all, what Republican ever wins in Maryland? I don’t care if it’s one of those 35-33-32 deals: as long as our guy has the 35, he has 6 years to build up the next campaign.

You may remember in the last Presidential go-round that the most centrist of Democrat candidates was onetime Reagan administration official Jim Webb of Virginia. While his campaign didn’t gain much in the way of traction, Jim landed on his feet nonetheless: he now draws a paycheck from the American Petroleum Institute and advocates for offshore energy exploration, to wit:

The United States can increase these advantages (in energy exploration) through renewed emphasis on safe and technologically advanced offshore exploration, which is increasingly in use throughout the world. Ninety-four percent of federal offshore acreage is currently off limits to energy development. The Trump administration’s National Offshore Leasing Program for 2019-2024 would change that by opening key areas off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Recent advances in safety solutions, plus improvements in business practices and tighter government standards, guarantee that offshore exploration can be safe, targeted and productive.

Maybe that’s why Ben Jealous had the commonwealth on his mind the other day. But that’s the place I’ll use to bring this post home, and I have an old friend of mine to credit. My old “Rebeldome” cohort Bob Densic spied this in the Daily Signal and knew I’d be interested – it’s a piece on the current state of the TEA Party in Virginia.

So that will (almost) be a wrap for now. I might get enough to do another one before Election Day, but we will see.

**I’m thinking of getting the band back together, as it were, for a limited engagement. To me, it may be a useful exercise to maintain the Maryland edition of the mAP, but restrict it to the three districts (36, 37, and 38) on the Eastern Shore. Anyone else can do their own research on their members of the General Assembly.

Gilmore says goodbye

February 13, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Gilmore says goodbye 

If you didn’t realize onetime Virginia governor Jim Gilmore was still in the Presidential race, you can save the realization now because he withdrew yesterday – much to the chagrin of all 145 people who voted for him in Iowa (12) and New Hampshire (133.) But seriously, had he done more to round out his platform Jim may have received my support. On a lot of issues he was leading in the right direction but just as his abortive 2008 bid failed to catch fire so did his 2016 effort.

Gilmore had this to say about his exit:

“My campaign was intended to offer the gubernatorial experience, with the track record of a true conservative, experienced in national security, to unite the party.” Gilmore said, “My goal was to focus on the importance of this election as a real turning point, and to emphasize the dangers of continuing on a road that will further undermine America’s economy and weaken our national security.”

“Nonetheless, I will continue to express my concerns about the dangers of electing someone who has pledged to continue Obama’s disastrous policies,” Gilmore said. “And, I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that our next President is a free enterprise Republican who will restore our nation to greatness and keep our citizens safe.”

Alone among the remaining contenders as a military veteran, Gilmore also had an interesting tax plan that was the linchpin of his campaign. But jumping into the race in late July, when most people were contemplating a vacation and only a week or so before the first GOP debate, made what was already a tall task virtually impossible. One has to wonder what impact Gilmore may have had with an April or May announcement.

But Gilmore made a very salient point as he campaigned in New Hampshire:

“Every time they give Donald Trump 33 minutes on MSNBC, it’s like giving him $1 million. It’s wrong,” Gilmore said, pounding the table as his voice rose. “They’re shaping the race, they’re favoring candidates, and it’s been very detrimental to my campaign.”

Does that sound a little whiny? Perhaps: I think I could make the same case if my name were Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, or even Jeb Bush. Three of these gentlemen came into the race shortly after Donald Trump did (Jeb Bush got in the day before Trump announced) and all of them failed to make much of a splash thanks to the media blowtorch that is Trump. (Arguably, John Kasich’s campaign has suffered to some extent as well, although he timed his announcement just right to get on the stage at the first debate. Kasich’s New Hampshire finish is likely to be the high-water mark of his campaign, though.)

Yet if you read between the lines, I’m not entirely sure Gilmore isn’t going to endorse The Donald. Just take three passages from the last sentence I cited from Jim’s release.

“I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that our next President is a free enterprise Republican…” Given that Trump is the remaining business person in the race, that seems to be a good lead-in with respect to an endorsement.

“…who will restore our nation to greatness…” Sounds like “Make America Great Again.”

“… and keep our citizens safe.” With a wall at our border, perhaps? It all seems to be a play to give the endorsement to Trump, making Gilmore the first ex-candidate to do so.

So allow me to update my tier map:

  • 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 (Rubio)

I suspect my third and fourth tiers will be cleaned out by the time we get to the SEC primary in March.

Oh, and speaking of Virginia politicians, the other Presidential aspirant from that state opted not to make an independent bid. Said Jim Webb:

We looked at the possibility of an independent candidacy. Theoretically it could be done, but it is enormously costly and time sensitive, and I don’t see the fundraising trajectory where we could make a realistic run.

Considering Webb would have possibly been in the mix with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and perhaps a disgruntled Donald Trump, a third-party run wasn’t going to make a dent.

Hanging on the fringes but straddling the center

January 3, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Hanging on the fringes but straddling the center 

This was an item lost in the interim between Christmas and New Year’s, but there is still the threat of an independent candidacy siphoning votes away from a major-party nominee. And no, it’s not Donald Trump threatening to bolt if the GOP doesn’t elect him.

If you thought his withdrawal from the Democratic presidential race spelled the end of Jim Webb’s campaign, you may have thought wrong. He’s still pondering an independent run which has the potential to draw voters from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, should he win the nomination. Polls suggest that Trump’s biggest base of support comes from voters who can’t vote in a Republican primary.

The dynamics of a third-party or independent run are always intriguing to me. While it’s rare to see one of those efforts succeed in a large-scale run – perhaps the best example is former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura – the thought that a moderately successful third-party candidate who gets 5 to 7 percent can swing the election scares both the major parties. There’s a scenario where I can see a Webb candidacy taking away more support from the Republican nominee than Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side: let’s say the nation is on war footing and desires a Presidential candidate with military experience that neither Clinton nor the GOP nominee could boast.

But the message Webb brings is one of populism – after all, his first issue is “economic fairness,” where he pits CEOs vs. workers and states “(t)he loopholes and exceptions that have evolved (in the tax code) have made a mockery out of true economic fairness.” This stance wasn’t all that different from his Democratic contenders, but Webb can also portray himself better as an outsider who was bipartisan enough to work under a Republican president but serve as a Democrat in the Senate. That could draw people from Hillary’s center, particularly those with a military or working-class background who believe Hillary is a creature of the Washington establishment.

Webb also points out that:

I have seen many people come to public service from highly successful careers in the business world, only to be devoured and humiliated by the demands of moving policy through the bureaucracy and then the Congress.

The administration of our government needs to be fixed. With the right leadership and the right sense of priorities, it can be.

This seems to be a statement directed at Donald Trump, and those who believe Trump can stroll right into the White House and clean up government should take heed. It’s a good way to temper expectations.

The obvious difference between the primary and general elections, moreover, is the impact non-affiliated voters can have. If Trump doesn’t get the nomination and decides to forgo the independent run, you’ll have a candidate from the extreme left and another certain to be painted in the media as being from the extreme right. Jim Webb may only get five percent, but the question becomes where that five percent comes from – Hillary or the Republican.

With ten months to go before the election, all this may be academic as one major-party candidate or the other wins outright and Webb becomes just a cipher in the overall race with a percent or two. But those of us who recall the Bush-Gore 2000 saga aren’t going to discount the possibility of a Ralph Nader spoiler in the race just yet. Al Gore lost because his challenge was from the Left, so who could be affected with a 2016 run from the center?

The tangled Webb Democrats weave

October 20, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on The tangled Webb Democrats weave 

The first one in is the first one out – or is he?

Back in November of 2014, the world basically ignored Jim Webb when he became the first serious 2016 Presidential candidate to form an exploratory committee. And after that ignorance extended through a “debate” where his speaking time paled in comparison to the frontrunners, Webb saw the writing on the wall and announced the possibility of a different direction.

Some people say I am a Republican who became a Democrat, but that I often sound like a Republican in a room full of Democrats or a Democrat in a room full of Republicans. Actually I take that as a compliment. More people in this country call themselves political independents than either Republican or Democrat. I happen to agree with them. Our country is more important than a label. Democrats in years past like Sam Nunn, Scoop Jackson, Mike Mansfield and John F. Kennedy understood this.

(snip)

And I know I’m going to hear it, so let me be the first to say this: I fully accept that my views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party. That party is filled with millions of dedicated, hard-working Americans. But its hierarchy is not comfortable with many of the policies that I have laid forth, and frankly I am not that comfortable with many of theirs.

For this reason I am withdrawing from any consideration of being the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Presidency. This does not reduce in any way my concerns about the challenges facing our country, my belief that I can provide the best leadership in order to meet these challenges, or my intentions to remain fully engaged in the debates that are facing us. How I remain as a voice will depend on what kind of support I am shown in the coming days and weeks as I meet with people from all sides of America’s political landscape. And I intend to do that.

(snip)

I am not going away. I am thinking through all of my options. 240 years ago the Declaration of Independence from our status as a colony from Great Britain was announced. It’s time for a new Declaration of Independence – not from an outside power but from the paralysis of a federal system that no longer serves the interests of the vast majority of the American people.

The Presidency has gained too much power. The Congress has grown weak and often irrelevant. The present-day Democratic and Republican parties are not providing the answers and the guarantees that we can rely on. The financial sector represented by the Wall Street bankers is caring less and less about the conditions of the average American worker for the simple reason that their well-being depends on the global economy, not the American economy.

Our political process is jammed up. It needs an honest broker who respects all sides, who understands the complicated nature of how our federal system works, who will communicate a vision for our country’s future here at home and in our foreign policy, and who has a proven record of getting things done.

While Webb was a non-entity in the polls, over the weekend when I checked the RCP averages he was ahead of the little two of Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, who combined were barely beating Webb. In reality the Democratic side is a three-person race between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden, who polls about 17% as a non-formal candidate. Compare that to the less than 1% Webb had and it’s no surprise he’s frustrated with the process.

Webb’s 2016 candidacy reminds me a little bit of Gary Johnson’s 2012 run. Johnson, the libertarian-leaning former governor of New Mexico, got an early start but could never catch fire among conservative voters, so he dropped out in order to secure the Libertarian Party nomination, which he received. He ended up getting just under 1% of the vote, which was roughly the support he was getting among Republicans.

The last time a candidate siphoned a significant number of Democratic votes was when Ralph Nader picked off enough far-left voters to tip the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Webb is running a centrist, populist campaign that if left unchecked could draw votes away from Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, though, he could also hurt Donald Trump if Democrats who don’t like the thought of voting for a Republican decide an independent Webb is the better choice. This would be especially true if the Democrats play the class envy card on Trump as they did for Mitt Romney.

So far it’s been a year where voters have coalesced around outsiders. Webb isn’t exactly an outsider as he served a term in the Senate and as a Reagan administration official. but he has been away for awhile. People tired of politics as usual may give Webb a chance if he has the means and money to get his message out. That wasn’t going to happen in the Democratic process.

Handicapping the GOP debate

August 5, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Handicapping the GOP debate 

And then there were ten.

To millions of Americans, the field for the Republican presidential nomination just got cut down to ten. Woe be to Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and the two Ricks – Perry and Santorum – because they may as well have dropped out. (In fact, it would not surprise me to see one or two of them throw in the towel by month’s end as their fundraising will likely dry up because the top ten will gain in the polls thanks to this exposure.)

If it were up to me, the format would have been different – a three-hour event featuring groups of five or six at a time. And if I were forced to pick a top ten based on my assessments of the candidates thus far, Carson, Christie, Kasich, and Trump would be out and Graham, Jindal, Perry, and Santorum would be in. I don’t like the idea of this event driving the polls, but it will.

Having said that, I think the debate can be useful if the right questions are asked. Let’s not have the “gotcha” questions – while I value the social issues, I figure that there will be sufficient time for five questions and (foreshadowing alert) my key issues are taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government. Let’s have some opportunities to allow candidates to differentiate themselves.

And I hope the bottom-feeders are savvy enough to answer these same questions in such a way to contrast themselves. For example, a guy like Rick Perry should have a good answer to a role of government question because he’s a firm believer in the Tenth Amendment. (Perry was the victim of John Kasich’s early momentum because he was 11th in the polling average, and Kasich was 10th.)

But I think I know how it will go, and the (literal) center stage will belong to The Donald. Frankly, I think a significant share of interest in this debate is of the same type that watches NASCAR racing waiting for the eighteen-car pileup. How will he handle the pressure of having to answer questions? If they put him in the middle and start at each end, he has a tremendous advantage because he can hear a few answers but not be the poor sap who has to sound like a broken record at the end.

Overshadowed in all this, though, is one key fact: we haven’t heard a peep about a Democratic debate, and Martin O’Malley is unhappy about it. Literally, they have not scheduled a date for one yet.

Naturally I don’t see the Democrats’ debate coming anywhere near Fox News, nor do I see anything but questions where the only real answer is how much they can pander to minorities, gays, union members, Radical Green, and whatever other splinter groups they cater to. E-mail, Benghazi, and foreign policy failures will be off-limits in those debates. But I do want to see how that clown car tries to play up the failure of the last six-plus years considering most of them (except Jim Webb) have been an active participant in some way.

So I may just have to watch tomorrow, if I can remember what channel Fox News is on.

The context for Jindal

June 24, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The context for Jindal 

We weren’t really paying a whole lot of attention in these parts, but today Bobby Jindal became what he hopes is the lucky 13th candidate to seek the Republican nomination for President. And it didn’t take long for our friends, the Democrat “hacktivists,” to take a few potshots in an e-mail titled “Bobby Jindal for president? Really?”:

Take a look at our Bobby Jindal primer:

  • He’s one of the least popular governors in the country: Under his failed leadership, nearly 1 in every 5 people in Louisiana lives in poverty.
  • He’s one of the architects of the scheme to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
  • He will say anything to please the Tea Party base, like denying climate science and championing extremists like the guy from Duck Dynasty.

Really, that’s all you’ve got? Granted, Jindal doesn’t have overwhelming approval numbers in Louisiana – earlier this year, he was polling in the 20s at home, but had significant positive ratings elsewhere. Jindal was popular enough to win 66% of the vote in his 2011 re-election campaign, though. It’s not unheard of for a governor to lose polling momentum in a second term as he had 50 percent approval two years ago. And if failed leadership involves cleaning up a corrupt state, I’ll take some in Maryland.

As for the poverty rate, it is roughly the same in Louisiana as it was in 2000. Under governors of both parties it has stayed around 20 percent, with the low point occurring under Jindal’s watch in 2010. In those terms it is not too distinct from its southern peers.

It’s worth noting that the same poll that had Jindal at 50 percent also polled on his decision not to expand Medicaid. And don’t let them fool you: nothing would happen to Medicare until 2024 at the earliest, and, as Paul Ryan explains, this is a program to allow more choice. We know the Democrat hacktivists think they know what’s best for us but I like having choices, thank you.

But I loved that last bullet point. I don’t believe the climate “science” either because there’s too much money at stake for those who parrot the government line to state otherwise; moreover, there are the inconvenient truths that the Earth has been warmer and cooler than it is today for extended periods before the industrial revolution. In short, we don’t have a damn thing to do with it but people want us to think so in order to tax and control us. Yet it’s working, so don’t tell anyone it’s a con.

And “that guy from Duck Dynasty” happens to be a pretty successful Louisiana-based businessman. You could be friends with worse people, like suspected child molesters. To the extent Phil Robertson is “extreme” is the extent he is God-fearing.

With all that, I’m starting to like Jindal a little more. Really. Let’s face it: the Democrats have nothing except the scandal-plagued Clinton family and the walking failure that is Barack Obama. They can’t even get Jim Webb on the same page.

So if you need a good laugh, just wait for the Democratic “hacktivists” to speak up. You’ll get one.

The presidential race veers farther left

May 1, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on The presidential race veers farther left 

At last, someone who admits what he is.

Since Elizabeth Warren continues to express her disinterest in the race, it took 73-year-old Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist and independent, to become yet another far-left regressive alternative to Hillary Clinton. (Despite being nominally independent, Sanders caucuses with the Democratic Party and will run for president under that banner.)

But those fringe leftists out there must have a little extra coin, as CNN and MSNBC both breathlessly described how Sanders outraised all the declared Republicans on their first day in with $1.5 million in the coffers. Whether that’s because Sanders is thought to be a viable alternative to Hillary Clinton or if it was an event made for news consumption is yet to be seen, but he’s off to a good start.

As he told the Guardian:

“People should not underestimate me,” Sanders said. “I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”

The message he believes will resonate is as follows:

Sanders said he would release “very specific proposals” to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations, as well as offer tuition-free education at all public colleges and universities. He touched on his past opposition to free-trade agreements, his support for heavier regulation of Wall Street and the nation’s banking industry, and his vote against the Keystone XL oil pipeline as a preview of his campaign.

It’s a textbook populist (and job-killing) agenda, chock full of class warfare – but at least he’s not shy about it, vowing “a political revolution is coming” as soon as he launches his website formally later this month.

So the question has to be asked: will it affect Hillary? For a short time, the smart money as the alternative to Hillary was Martin O’Malley. But now that Baltimore has blown up, the question will naturally be what his tenure as mayor did to make Baltimore into the tinderbox it turned out to be, particularly as he came back to town in the days following the riots. The other Democrats in the race either don’t have the name recognition among the far-left in the party (Lincoln Chafee) or are too centrist for their taste (Jim Webb.) Sanders, on the other hand, is a somewhat known figure and has a long political record since he was first elected to Congress in 1990. A Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa placed Sanders as the only contender besides Hillary in double digits, and also pointed out:

On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton leads with 62% to 14% for Bernie Sanders, 6% for Martin O’Malley, 3% for Jim Webb, and 2% for Lincoln Chafee. We have now found Sanders polling at double digits in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He leads the non-Clinton candidates in name recognition at 56%, followed by 34% for O’Malley, 31% for Webb, and 25% for Chafee. Sanders is also the most frequently named second choice at 18% to 14% for O’Malley, and 12% for Clinton.

Besides Joe Biden, who has stated he won’t decide whether to run until the summer, it can be argued that Sanders is the most viable candidate. A race without Hillary would probably be as interesting and competitive on the Democratic side as the Republican race promises to be. (The same Iowa PPP survey had Scott Walker leading the GOP field, but only with 23%.)

So the race between aging pre-Baby Boomers continues on the Democratic side. If the contest is one of being more liberal than the next, we’ve pretty much reached the end with Sanders. Let’s just hope he doesn’t scream like Howard Dean when he loses.

The basket of (rotten) eggs

April 15, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

It looks to me like the Democratic National Committee has lost all pretense of objectivity and fairness in their most recent advertising campaign, for their latest e-mail (and yes I’m on the list because most of their e-mails are comedy gold) puts them squarely in the tank for one candidate:

I don’t recall seeing this when Jim Webb formed his exploratory committee and I’m suspecting a similar message won’t be splashed all over my inbox when Martin O’Malley makes it official. The powers that be in the Democrat party are, for better or worse, hitching their wagons to the colossal failure that is Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, the Republicans now have the advantage of focusing on one target, don’t they? Interestingly enough, the e-mail graphically depicts five of the presumptive frontrunners for the GOP nomination (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio) as “guys…ready to do whatever they can to make sure a Democrat isn’t the 45th President of the United States.” Well, damn, I would hope so. I know a Democrat as the 45th president (or 46th, 47th, or so forth) isn’t my personal preference!

Yet the fact that she’s almost the candidate by default may be her undoing in the end. Say what you will about Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign, but I think the fact his nomination wasn’t handed to him made him a better candidate. It was the reverse of 2000 and 2004, when Al Gore and John Kerry had relatively brief and easy campaigns. And while conventional wisdom and the party establishment would likely prefer a bloodless nomination campaign, the potential is there for a summer of campaigning as a couple GOP candidates jockey for the brass ring. The idea that they can focus on Hillary while she doesn’t have the advantage of knowing just who her opponent might be could start swinging some votes.

It’s a classic case of putting all their eggs in one basket. Just wait until it falls.

Taking the queen

The news cycle today was dominated by the reports that Hillary Clinton would make her 2016 plans official on Sunday – and she would be doing it via social media and in small groups because she’s oh-so-hip.

Yet there are a number of people out there who are afraid Democrats would have buyer’s remorse if Hillary is the nominee. A handful are coalescing around Martin O’Malley because of his experience as governor, but another former governor who can also boast of a term in the Senate is entering the race now as well. Is it blood in the water?

Perhaps not, but former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee promises “fresh ideas for America” as the second Republican-turned-Democrat to run in this cycle after onetime Virginia Senator Jim Webb entered late last year. Of course, these “fresh ideas” are typical liberal bromides but nonetheless Chafee is playing the populist card in an effort to attract those who aren’t ready for Hillary. As opposed to Webb, who is a former Republican running to the center, Chafee is going more to the left of Hillary, but based on the approval ratings he had during his lone term as governor of the Ocean State and the fact his chosen successor didn’t even make it through the primary it makes Martin O’Malley look like a political genius – and that is damn hard to do.

Yet it makes a great point. If you look at the contenders who have entered (or are likely to enter) the GOP race, you have a vast selection of current and former governors, members of the United States Senate, and even a private citizen or two. There could be upwards of 15 serious aspirants who bring some sort of unique experience to the table.

On the other hand, so far the Democratic slate may include a former First Lady who was a failure as a Cabinet secretary and undistinguished one-plus term Senator, a gaffe-prone vice president and two-time failure in the Presidential race (who was also caught plagiarizing material). a pair of governors who couldn’t even get their anointed successors elected, a one-term Senator who got tired of the job, an avowed Socialist, and Fauxcahontas. Yeah, that’s a real set of winners. And the average age of this group is 66, with O’Malley serving the useful purpose of dragging it down by a couple years since he’s only 52.

Nobody really likes Hillary. Eight years ago most people figured she would be the first woman president and we would have a Presidential history lineage which went Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Instead, some semi-obscure Senator named Barack Obama promised a fundamental transformation of America and we got it. (We didn’t necessarily like it, but that’s another well-documented story.)

It’s also worth noting that the 2006 elections, which saw the GOP lose its majorities in both houses of Congress, were seen as a precursor to 2008 where Barack Obama won. The TEA Party wave of 2010 didn’t quite reach the White House in 2012 – in part because Mitt Romney was seen by some conservatives as uninspiring – but the presidency is an open seat once again in 2016 and the 2014 results returned the GOP to control of Congress.

Some Democrats probably feel Hillary is the best, last hope to regain the prosperity many enjoyed during the Bill Clinton years. But we are almost a generation removed from his tenure and much has happened in the interim – 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economic meltdown, and a division in politics rarely seen since the days before the War Between the States. If you compare that to the first 16 years removed from Ronald Reagan, the conditions back then were much more placid – the fall of the Soviet Union, a minor recession, a quick Gulf war, and then worries about scandals culminating in one involving a blue dress. Until 9/11 that was our real news story. From Bush to Bush was easy compared to the longer potential timeframe from Clinton to Clinton.

For all those reasons, Hillary may be the most vulnerable fait accompli candidate in recent memory, and I don’t think Chafee’s entry will be the last dark horse.

Informally making it formal?

When you stop laughing, hear me out.

It’s only been two months since he left office, but I think we can all agree our somewhat esteemed former governor is all but an official announcement away from throwing his hat into the 2016 Presidential ring. And when you consider that Hillary Clinton is continually being tarred by scandal after scandal (Benghazi and her e-mail questions) and blunder after blunder (the Russian “reset” button and discussing the “fun deficit”), Martin O’Malley almost looks sane. Come on, what else do you have on the Democratic side – the gaffe-prone Joe Biden? “Fauxcahonotas” Elizabeth Warren? One-term Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is the one who has the exploratory committee going, but the far left considers him a “Reagan Democrat” who they can’t support.

So when you see the above photo on the O’Malley Facebook page (which is where I got it) you have to ask if the “taking on powerful and wealthy special interests” message is meant for Hillary? After all, look how much the Clintons’ foundation has raked in over the years. And his message today about the presidency “not (being) some crown to be passed between two families,” would resonate with a lot of people who believed the propaganda about how disastrous the George W. Bush tenure was and are already tired of the constant turmoil surrounding the Clinton family.

Perhaps Delegate Herb McMillan put this best, noting, “Raising taxes on the poor and middle classes 83 times isn’t the same as taking on powerful wealthy special interests.” But it’s more than that.

Obviously the laughter among many who read this website comes from knowing how rapidly O’Malley would genuflect to particular special interests when it suited his purposes. Environmentalists got a lot of goodies during MOM’s reign: California rules on emissions, punitive restrictions on development in rural areas (via the “tier maps”), an ill-advised and job-killing moratorium on fracking, and of course the “rain tax.” Illegal immigrants, too, had a friend in O’Malley, but productive taxpayers – not so much. He also decided to work on legalizing gay marriage only after his electoral coast was clear in the state – if he had tried to run for re-election on the issue he would have lost the black vote in 2010. (Remember, that was before Barack Obama’s flip-flop on the issue.)

Say what you will about Martin O’Malley, but he is the lone Democrat openly considering the race who has executive experience – on the other hand, there are a number of GOP candidates who can boast the same thing: in alphabetical order there’s Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker. Depending on who the GOP puts up, the “experience” tag could apply to the Democrat. We’re not saying the experience would be a good one, but it is what it is.

Don’t be too shocked if the O’Malley’s March national tour makes a lot of stops in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s his way of pandering to the special interests he cherishes the most, and if people are fooled by this sudden bout of populism it’s their own fault. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Update: At Front Line State Jim Jamitis echoes these sentiments, with a great headline to boot.

Who’s out may be as important as who’s in

Recently I’ve posted about three likely entrants into the 2016 Presidential race – Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson on the Republican side and Jim Webb representing the Democrats. Naturally with an open seat the interest in the job increases, since there’s no incumbent with his built-in advantages to contend with. This opens the field to a lot of potential contenders who passed on the 2012 race for various reasons. Recall that many of those who ran in 2012 on the GOP side are still active in the political arena – Newt Gingrich with his production group, Rick Santorum with Patriot Voices, Mitt Romney with endorsements and help with financial support, and Rick Perry with his RickPAC, among others.

Obviously Democrats were silent in 2012, but it’s been known that grassroots movements have sprung up for Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren (who’s trying to tell her supporters “no”) while Martin O’Malley began his own PAC for 2014. Joe Biden claims he “honest to God hasn’t made up my mind” about running.

On the GOP side, these aforementioned contenders have one thing in common: except for Perry, who did not seek another term and leaves next month, they are not currently serving in office. (On the other hand, among the Democrats only Webb and Clinton are out of office, although O’Malley joins that group January 21.) Yet the GOP has an extremely deep bench of current governors, many of which are in their second term and have national name recognition: in alphabetical order, the group includes Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich in Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

In recent years, our presidents have tended to be former governors: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter all came from that background. Obviously their tenures in the Oval Office were a mixed bag of success, but Americans tend to be more confident that those who ran a state can run a federal government. (The only recent exceptions to this were 2012 with Mitt Romney and 1988, where Vice-President Bush defeated Michael Dukakis. Maybe being governor of Massachusetts works as a disqualifier.)

With the large potential field of governors, it may be just as important to know who’s out. When you have a state to run for another four years, the excuses for trips to Iowa and New Hampshire are fewer. It’s not to say that governors who want the brass ring won’t try and make that effort, but as we’ve seen with Martin O’Malley and his frequent journeys to New Hampshire and Iowa in his second term, there is the potential for losing focus on your real job. It was enough to cost his anointed successor his election, for the dubious gain of polling at 1 percent or less in most 2016 Presidential polls.

There are perhaps 15 to 20 figures in national politics who could potentially run for President on the Republican side – far more than the Democrats boast. Of course, only one can win a party’s nomination, but beyond that there are only three or four who can be in the top tier and raise the money necessary to wage a national campaign. (It’s something that Martin O’Malley is finding out firsthand on the Democrat side, since he’s not one of those.) It’s been claimed on a grassroots level that the last two Republican campaigns were decided when the “establishment” settled on one candidate before the activists did – that group split their allegiances and votes several ways until it was too late. By the time Rick Santorum outlasted Gingrich, Perry, et. al. he was no more than the highest loser because at that point the nomination was just about sealed for Mitt Romney. Romney may have been the best candidate for 2012, but he wasn’t good enough to get the nearly 3.6 million who passed on voting for Barack Obama a second time to come on board.

People like to keep their options open, but since the announcements of who’s in seem to be receding farther and farther from the actual election, it may help those of us on the Right who would like to select a candidate to know who won’t be running. Obviously there will be a few ardent supporters who will pine for that candidate to reconsider – as far-left populist Democrats are finding with Elizabeth Warren – but we could save a lot of wasted money and effort by finding out who won’t make a half-hearted attempt at an early date.

Opening fodder

While Ben Carson made a splash on the GOP side by strongly hinting he was in the 2016 Presidential fray, he stopped short of actually launching an exploratory committee. The first major candidate – at least one who has a shot at being in the top couple tiers, anyway – to form an exploratory committee is Democrat Jim Webb, the former Reagan administration official who later became a Democratic senator from Virginia. Daniel Larison at The American Conservative has some thoughts on this challenge to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, but Webb has his own explanation at his newly-christened website.

And while it’s probably the longest of shots to oppose the Clinton machine, Webb does have somewhat of an opening according to Harry Enten at fivethirtyeight.com. He points out that Hillary’s support is weakest in the political center, where Webb’s pro-military but populist message may resonate. As David Freedlander writes at the Daily Beast:

And Clinton, (Webb’s) aides insist, is a non-factor.

“It ain’t about Hillary,” said Mudcat Saunders, a longtime Virginia strategist who worked on Webb’s Senate campaign. “It’s about bring the American dream to the forefront once again for working people and small business. The working people and small business – they haven’t had any representation in years. And they know it.

Americans want to do something about this coin-operated government.”

In a lot of respects, Webb hearkens back to the old Democratic party, the one which was just as liberal as it is today but was pro-military and pro-American. Ronald Reagan led those voters to the Republican Party and many of them stayed. For those who hang on to their faith in the old-style Democratic party and the song and dance about their support for the working man – the sort of Democrat who still resides mainly in rural areas like this one – Webb may be an appealing option. Take this excerpt from his introductory video as an example, one where Webb points out that he’s no stranger to long-shot campaigns since he defeated George Allen in 2006 to win his one term as Senator.

With enough financial support to conduct a first-class campaign, I have no doubt that we can put these issues squarely before the American people and gain their support. The 2016 election is two years away, but serious campaigning will begin very soon. The first primaries are about a year away. Your early support will be crucial as I evaluate whether we might overcome what many commentators see as nearly impossible odds.

We are starting with very little funding and no full-time staff, but I’ve been here before. In February, 2006 I announced for the Senate only nine months before the election against an entrenched incumbent. We had no money and no staff. We were more than 30 points behind in the polls. I promised to work on the same themes I am putting before you now: reorient our national security policy, work toward true economic fairness and social justice, and demand good governance, including a proper balance between the Presidency and the Congress. We won. And despite the paralysis in our government, we delivered on these promises, in measurable, lasting ways.

In 2007, I gave the response to President Bush’s State of the Union address. I put economic fairness for our working people and small business owners at the front of my response, noting the immense and ever-growing disparities in income between corporate executives and those who do the hard work. When I graduated from college the average corporate CEO made twenty times what his workers made. Today that number is greater than 300 times. The inequalities between top and bottom in our country are greater than at any time in the last hundred years. And the disparities between those at the very top and the rest of our society have only grown larger since the economic crash of late 2008 and early 2009.

With over 30,000 views in the first few days, the video is indeed portraying a very populist message that would appeal to the vast number of voters who fall for the class envy trap. (Dirty little secret: CEO pay is much higher now because many are paid in large part with stock options, thanks to the push a couple decades ago to more directly tie CEO salaries to company profitability and financial performance. In terms of actual salary, the ratio is far lower.)

It’s doubtful that Jim Webb is the obstacle to an eventual Hillary coronation that Barack Obama was in 2008, and at this point he’s probably in the same low tier of probability that Martin O’Malley rests on, well behind Joe Biden and miles in arrears to Hillary. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jim in the mid-single digits in early polls as an outsider who has military experience, as opposed to most others in the Democratic field. He may be the catalyst for another Operation Chaos on the Democratic side.

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