2016 dossier: Energy

Third out of my ten priority issues for the 2016 candidates is energy, where candidates can score up to seven points with an agreeable policy. You’re likely asking what would be agreeable to me, so here is a quick primer.

As you likely know from reading this site regularly, I’m in favor of letting the market determine what is efficient and inexpensive. Since oil is plentiful and relatively cheap within our shores, I think we need to allow exploration wherever possible including offshore areas currently off-limits. The same goes for natural gas, with hydraulic fracturing being a proven technique to extract both oil and natural gas. It should be encouraged, including the infrastructure needed to more safely transport it – yes, that means build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Maybe the best way to put it is that I advocate a “most-of-the-above” energy policy. Those items which are exceptions would be federal subsidies for the solar and wind industries, which should be made to compete on a more level playing field. We need to also dump the Renewable Fuel Standard because it makes no sense to grow food to turn into fuel. This may not make me a lot of friends in the corn industry, but it’s time to end the failed experiment.

I also have nothing against the coal industry, so let them keep mining and burning coal.

Now that you get the idea of where I stand, where do the candidates stand?

There are a couple more specific resources that I used for this exercise. On the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), the Huffington Post blogger Heather Taylor-Miesle shared the following, with some assistance from the League of Conservation Voters:

I also leaned on a well-done Ballotpedia article for many of these candidates, as well as their campaign websites. This gives me an idea of just how much they are committed to energy as a topic for the campaign.

But I honestly wish every candidate would cover every issue as thoroughly as Bobby Jindal presents his energy platform. Even the title is optimistic: “Organizing Around Abundance.” There’s not much at all to dislike within it, either. I spent a very productive half-hour reading through the report and if he doesn’t win the Presidency we should at least make Jindal the Secretary of Energy. The next President has the blueprint dropped into his or her lap right here.

Total score for Jindal – 6.9 of 7.

Ted Cruz couches his energy policy as one of jobs and opportunity, and in that respect he is right on. He voted to end wind subsidies, and told an Iowa crowd in the middle of corn country that ethanol subsidies had to go. His Ballotpedia energy profile lists any number of bills he co-sponsored to assist in deregulating the energy industry. The only question is how well he would be able to use his bully pulpit, but there’s not a lot to dislike about the Cruz approach so I give it high marks.

Total score for Cruz – 6.6 of 7.

Claiming to want a free-market approach seemed to take a back seat for Rand Paul when he wanted to win votes in Iowa. Going to E15 full-time would be a disaster, but he supports it.

Listen, if he wants to live a sustainable lifestyle on his own time that’s cool but “well thought-out regulations” is generally an oxymoron to the highest degree. So while I like his stances on encouraging drilling and exporting oil and natural gas, Rand comes in a cut below the top tier.

Total score for Paul – 5.0 of 7.

On his state level, Rick Perry has presided over a boom in most energy sectors, although some accuse him of lagging on solar. He signed a modest renewable energy portfolio, which thanks to abundant wind resources is covered – at a cost of several dollars a month on state electric bills.

But Perry, surprisingly, doesn’t have an energy policy spelled out. I know he’s fracking-friendly and supports exporting of oil, but the key unanswered question is just how far he would allow a state-centered approach to go if it gets in the way of his overall goals. Are state’s rights that paramount?

Total score for Perry – 4.2 of 7.

While Lindsey Graham voted recently to end the PTC, there are areas of his energy program which cause me concern. (He gets kudos for wrapping it up in one easy-to-digest package, though. It’s more than most of his counterparts put up.) The nagging thought I have is about “investing in cutting-edge technologies.” Did we not learn a lesson with Solyndra? And in the back of my mind, I wonder if he still believes this after seeing five years of the fracking boom?

Total score for Graham – 3.6 of 7.

It’s always revealing to see who the Left dislikes most, and Scott Walker was declared as the “worst candidate for the environment.” This was basically because he didn’t fall in with Radical Green. He seems to remind them of Snidely Whiplash, even cutting funding for a renewable energy research center. Yet on a state level he has kept a number of programs going, even though he was also worried about the effects of wind turbines on health.

But I saw the flip-flop on the RFS, and that hurt his chances with me. Nor does he delve into energy on his website.

Total score for Walker – 3.5 of 7.

Mike Huckabee is all over the map on energy. He won’t commit one way or the other on wind, has gone from ethanol supporter to opponent depending on venue and audience, but says we should exploit “anything and everything” when it comes to domestic energy. I like the ideas of relaxing export and exploration restrictions on oil and natural gas, but suspect that green energy subsidies won’t be going away soon as he once backed cap-and-trade. He would be better than some others, and I like the America-first attitude, but he falls short of the top tier with his indecisiveness.

Total score for Huckabee – 2.7 of 7.

You would think Jeb Bush would be very good on energy given his family’s interest in oil. But he has a go-slow approach in several areas, including the delayed phaseout of the PTC and a call for “rational” restrictions on fracking – remember, “rational” is always in the eye of the beholder. He is in favor of finishing Keystone XL and opening federal lands to drilling, which is a minor plus, but also endorsed a national goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025 – that would be a job-killer. I’m just afraid a Bush administration would be a repeat of his brother’s, where we were saddled with programs such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (which he wants to keep) and regulatory demise of inexpensive incandescent light bulbs.

Total score for Bush – 2.5 of 7.

While George Pataki deserves some credit for advocating an end to New York’s fracking ban and correctly feels that wind subsidies need to be blown away, what worries me are his thoughts on ethanol. I think the jury is still out on “clean,” but while corn-based ethanol is relatively renewable and American-made, I would rather eat my corn than put it in my gas tank. I can’t eat tar sands or sweet light crude.

Like Bush above, Pataki also signed the “25 in ’25″ pledge, so I don’t think he gets that the market should lead, not government.

Total score for Pataki – 2.5 of 7.

Chris Christie has a very mixed record – great for items like pulling out of the RGGI boondoggle that Martin O’Malley entangled us into, but in the same breath he banned new coal-fired power plants in the state. After putting out a one-year moratorium on fracking, he at least came to his senses 2 years later and vetoed a fracking ban. Offshore wind projects are stalled, but he has high hopes for solar. Rationalizing our approach to regulations and lifting the ban on exporting crude oil are positives, but not going after some of the biggest hurdles to a free energy market negates these campaign planks.

As a whole, though, he’s less trustworthy than Bush but hangs around that same level.

Total score for Christie – 2.3 of 7.

Making news on how his views have changed on the climate is the bulk of my look into Marco Rubio‘s policies. At one time he voted for looking into a cap-and-trade program for Florida, but claims he was never really for it. At that time he had a lot of green-friendly ideas, so I don’t know where he stands now. It’s a trust issue.

Total score for Rubio – 2.0 of 7.

Carly Fiorina has slim pickings when it comes to energy; however, her vow to eliminate the PTC by 2020 is at odds with the “all-of-the-above” approach she championed in 2010. More recently she’s tried to convince skeptical audiences we can innovate our way out of climate change, but that innovation once included support for a cap-and-trade program once proposed by John McCain. I just don’t see a whole lot of consistency and the lack of an issues page on her site makes it even worse.

Total score for Fiorina – 1.5 of 7.

John Kasich is new to the race, and as such has no energy platform on his website. But several discouraging acts of late give me pause: an effort to increase taxes on energy producers coupled with the reversal of an earlier decision to allow fracking on state lands outweigh positive moves to freeze the state’s renewable energy portfolio requirements and place prudent tabs on wind turbine siting. I see more of the same leftward drift with Kasich.

Total score for Kasich – 1.4 of 7.

While he isn’t opposed to fracking, the pandering Rick Santorum did in Iowa at the feet of King Corn made me wonder if he wouldn’t do the same on other issues. He once voted against the PTC but Iowa is also a leader in wind, so who knows what he will say next. Will he really stand up to the EPA? You would think a candidate from a fracking state would say more on his website and in general about energy, but Rick doesn’t.

Total score for Santorum – 1.4 of 7.

Okay, we know Donald Trump understands the economic benefits of fracking and loathes wind and solar power. But I have no idea what this will do with policy. All the hullabaloo over immigration and John McCain isn’t helping either.

Total score for Trump – 0.5 of 7.

You may have noticed an omission among the group atop the post when it came to wind. Quite frankly Ben Carson is a non-entity when it comes to energy issues. Aside from a vague reference to “developing our natural energy resources,” the biggest indicator I could find is this piece where he claims in one breath he wants a free energy market, but makes the exception for not just E-15, but E-30. If you want to lose the boat owner vote you just succeeded wildly.

Total score for Carson – 0.0 of 7. (Yes, that is a goose egg.)

It used to be that Social Security was the “third rail” of politics – touch it and you’re dead. But now I think social issues have become that for the GOP; nevertheless that is my next topic.

And then there were sixteen…

I know I’m a day late to the party, but I think most people with political sense already had Ohio governor John Kasich priced into the presidential market, so to speak. So what does he bring to the table and does his late announcement make sense?

If you look at the GOP race, it is chock full of governors. Let’s make a list, shall we?

  • Jeb Bush had two terms as Florida’s governor which mostly overlapped his brother’s tenure in the White House.
  • Chris Christie is in his second term as governor of New Jersey.
  • Mike Huckabee served two-plus terms as Arkansas governor, becoming governor when Jim Guy Tucker resigned in 1996 and winning election in 1998 and 2002.
  • Bobby Jindal is finishing his second term as Louisiana’s governor.
  • George Pataki was governor of New York for three terms, with 9/11 being the biggest milestone.
  • Rick Perry became Texas governor when George W. Bush resigned to become President, and won full terms in 2002, 2006, and 2010.
  • Scott Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin in 2010, survived a 2012 recall attempt, and won re-election in 2014.

Aside from the failed recall, Kasich comes in on roughly the same career trajectory as Scott Walker – both are Midwest governors who tangled with Big Labor, although Kasich’s reforms were not as successful.

So what does he have that others don’t? Kasich was a Congressman for nearly two decades, which eliminates everyone else in the field except Jindal, who had a much shorter run. But in reality, he’s coming in on the centrist side of the GOP spectrum, which is already somewhat crowded with Christie, Pataki, and to some extent Jeb Bush. Among non-governors, it’s territory that is familiar to Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham. Certainly there are many trying to woo that segment of the Republican party.

But while centrists may be the ones donating money, the question is always whether they will show up to vote. Primaries, more often than not, are contests where the more conservative candidates win because their backers are more passionate. Ask Senator Castle from Delaware about that sometime. The establishment knows this, which is why in a state like Ohio the GOP does its level best to clear the field beforehand. (In 2010, despite there being a Democratic incumbent, John Kasich was the only Republican in the primary.)

Ohio has had eight presidents, and with the exception of William Henry Harrison, all of them were Republicans. (The elder Harrison was a Whig.) It’s a must-win state for the GOP, which is one reason why the Republicans are having their convention next year in Cleveland.

So don’t sleep on Kasich. I doubt he will be my first choice, but over the next few weeks I’ll see how he looks on my issues.

2016 dossier: Second Amendment

Unfortunately, the Second Amendment continues to be under assault from those who misinterpret its meaning to believe the “well regulated militia” is the National Guard and that the only ones who should have guns are the police and military (except when the latter are on base, of course.)

So the question for me is relatively cut and dried; my job is to determine how well these candidates would lead on reversing this trend if they were elected president. No more talk of a so-called “assault weapons” ban, but instead encouraging states to allow reciprocal concealed carry and convincing Congress to roll back the existing gun laws. What part of “shall not infringe” do they not understand? You’d think they were on the Supreme Court with their poor understanding of law and the Constitution.

Anyway, this category is worth up to six points and those who wish to make us more free to defend ourselves from whatever comes along score better than those who say, “well, maybe except for this instance” or “you know they were talking about muskets back then, not AR-15s.”

Ted Cruz is one of those who gets that. He’s been a staunch defender of Second Amendment rights, features his record prominently on his campaign website, and correctly notes that it’s not just about self-defense. My very minor complaint regards some provisions in this bill he co-sponsored with Senator Grassley a couple years ago – for one, the “Cruz Task Force” may be a little overbearing.

Total score for Cruz – 5.8 of 6.

Rand Paul gets the same score as Cruz, but for a different reason. Even though the District of Columbia is in the wrong regarding its gun laws, it does seem a little hypocritical that Rand is trying to block their laws through Congressional action. If it wasn’t good enough for Andy Harris to do it on the marijuana issue, then Rand Paul should not either. But he’s actually more strident on gun rights than even the NRA, correctly noting that mass shootings could be stopped (or even prevented) by armed citizens.  It’s also interesting that he equates the Second Amendment with the Fourth Amendment.

Total score for Paul – 5.8 of 6.

Mike Huckabee talks a lot about defending the Second Amendment and the rights of gun owners, and he gets the idea that it’s there to defend our liberty. Presumably he would also not stand in the way of enhanced carrying laws based on his assessment of the Dylann Roof situation. Plus he owns several AR-15s, and while the Left made light of that pencil analogy it really is true. In a lot of ways, Mike gets it and hopefully he can lead on the issue. My only concern is he would simply play defense as opposed to pushing back the frontiers of ignorance on the issue like those above him are doing.

Total score for Huckabee – 5.4 of 6.

Just slightly below my top tier as well is Marco Rubio. While he also is steadfast on the Second Amendment being there for self-protection – and walks the walk as a gun owner and concealed-carry permit holder who would like to see reciprocity – there are limits to how far he takes the Second Amendment. The Undetectable Firearms Act is simply a method to keep otherwise law-abiding citizens unarmed in an era where 3-D printing technology is now able to create firearms made of the resin used in that process. Again, please refer to “shall not infringe.”

Total score for Rubio – 5.3 of 6.

I wish I had a little more on the plans Bobby Jindal has for America regarding the Second Amendment, since he doesn’t cover them on his campaign site. However, if he is as active a supporter for gun-friendly reforms as President as he was as governor, we would be in fine shape. Even the restriction he added allows for its removal when appropriate.

And while he doesn’t put in the same terms as Cruz or Paul, Jindal has a fairly good understanding of the importance of the Second Amendment. So he’s right up among the highest tier hopefuls with a score over 5.

Total score for Jindal – 5.2 of 6.

Much like Jindal, Jeb Bush has a solid pro-gun record as governor, which he touts with regularity unlike Bobby. (I like the quote about the Second Amendment being the original Homeland Security in the last piece.) But I worry about expansion of instant background checks that Bush favored. It’s only based on his state track record that he ranks as highly as he does, as Bush is silent on the issue on his campaign site.

Total score for Bush – 4.8 of 6.

Maybe the one thing I don’t like about Lindsey Graham and his approach is the defensive posture. I’m glad you will stand against further intrusions on our rights, but the jury is still out with me on the incremental approach coming back. A couple things stand out in his favor, though: advocating for concealed carry reciprocity and understanding that home defense may require more firepower, much as the idiots on the Left may snicker.

Yet he criticized Ted Cruz for making a similar remark about protecting liberty. Since I have a sheriff who knows confiscating guns is a suicide mission, I have to come down on Cruz’s side. That is why Graham is looking up at him in my rankings.

Total score for Graham – 4.8 of 6.

Like Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, Scott Walker has loosened the gun restrictions in his state over his time in office. But while he has claimed on separate occasions that he is “a firm defender of the Second Amendment” and is “proud to stand up” for it, I don’t see the forceful advocacy and bully pulpit ability that we need, so he ranks a little below the upper tier.

Total score for Walker – 4.8 of 6.

What passes for a Second Amendment record for Rick Perry is really a batch of peripheral issues – all nice, and feathers in any governor’s cap, but not necessarily moving the ball down the field. (Although, clarification on Castle Doctrine is important.) And while he’s for concealed carry even in schools, he’s not as big on open carry. Maybe there’s logic to that, but why stand in the way of a state? If you don’t want to carry openly, you don’t have to – unfortunately, due to a politically motivated indictment, Perry can’t carry legally right now anyway. I think Rick would be okay, but not as good as others.

Total score for Perry – 4.2 of 6.

As someone who claims the Second Amendment is there to protect the First, I was dismayed to find no reference to the issue on the Rick Santorum campaign website. I know Rick feels that an armed America is a safer America – which I believe is correct – but was disappointed to read that we have “reasonable accommodations in place” when it comes to gun laws. No, we really don’t – “shall not be infringed” is very clear language to me as a reasonable accommodation.

Total score for Santorum – 3.2 of 6.

Honestly, I don’t know what to make about Ben Carson. There are times (as well as on his website) where he at least says the right things, and as we all know he has no voting record on the issue to glean information from. But he’s also stated that “assault weapons” should only be available for rural Americans before trying to walk back and further clarify where he stands.

Maybe he is “evolving” on the issue, but something tells me that he would work his way to the wrong side if elected.

Total score for Carson – 3.0 of 6.

Because Carly Fiorina has only run for office once, in 2010, we don’t have a lot from her. In her California Senate race, she came out against the assault weapons ban that was being discussed at the time, correctly noting that the features gun control advocates thought were dangerous were instead harmless. That was good, but in the story it’s also reported she would take a “wait and see” approach on further bans.

So while she claims to be a Second Amendment supporter, she didn’t elaborate on this when she had the best opportunity to do so. That’s rather alarming to me.

Total score for Fiorina – 2.8 of 6.

Perhaps Donald Trump has evolved over the last 15 years, but the guy who once called for an assault weapons ban is now claiming our Second Amendment rights are being taken away. As he gets farther down the campaign trail, I hope we get more clarity on his hawkish views on guns, including which infringements would be eliminated. At this juncture I hear only platitudes as other issues are being lost with the Donald’s immigration remarks. More on that in a future installment.

Total score for Trump – 1.2 of 6.

Chris Christie is not what you would call a friend of the Second Amendment. He did little to reverse New Jersey’s draconian gun laws, which are so extreme innocent drivers face prison time, but at least realized that more wouldn’t help him become president. Now it’s about the “right balance.” But nobody is being fooled by Christie’s changing stance. Still, he’s against concealed carry and so-called “assault weapons,” so electing him would be a step backwards for gun advocates.

Total score for Christie – 0.5 of 6.

George Pataki took advantage of tragedy to push through what was then billed as the nation’s strictest gun control laws, adding “we hope other states follow.” Now he believes states should put limits on gun use. I will give him a modicum of credit for believing we need no new gun laws, but that stance may change with the next headlining incident.

Total score for Pataki – 0.1 of 6.

Next in line, for seven points, is the world of energy. I suspect this will provide some separation as gas prices haven’t been the issue in recent months, so not all candidates are speaking out on the issue. But I’ll see what I can dig up on it.

2016 dossier: Education

As I promised awhile back, now that my monoblogue Accountability Project is out of the way I can begin to focus on the 2016 presidential race. With the exception of governors John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, it looks like we have the initial field in place for the start of what should be a memorable campaign – if only for the sheer number of people seeking to clean up the mess Barack Obama has made.

As I have done before, I break my method of choosing a candidate to support down by issues, which I rank in importance as part of a 100-point scale. Education ranks at the bottom of my ten top issues, thus a perfect score in this category is five points.

So what would be the ideal course of action for our next President? There are a number of answers I’ve written about previously, but to boil it down to a few items:

  • The first step would be to eliminate Common Core as a federal incentive. It would be the icebreaker to a philosophy of restoring educational control to the states, with the eventual goal of maximizing local control.
  • This President should then do what Ronald Reagan promised to do but could not: abort the federal Department of Education.
  • He (or she) should then become the leading voice for real educational reform in two areas: maximizing school choice and establishing the standard that money follows the child.
  • The President should also be an advocate for alternate career paths such as vocational education and apprenticeships as well as ending the stranglehold the federal government has on financing college education.

For this exercise I am going to rank the fourteen current candidates from best to worst, assigning them a point value from zero to five.

Rand Paul would abolish Common Core – although since it’s actually owned by a private corporation he can’t exactly do that.

He also believes strongly in local control, quipping that “I don’t think you’ll notice” if the Department of Education were gone, and adding that local boards of education shouldn’t have to fight Washington over curriculum. But where he shines is his statement that money should follow the child.

As you’ll see below, some put qualifiers on their advocacy of that concept. “Let the taxes Americans pay for education follow every student to the school of his or her family’s choice,” he wrote in the Washington Times. That, friends, is the correct answer.

Total score for Paul – 4.4 of 5.

Ted Cruz has many of the same good ideas Paul does, vowing to end Common Core and scrap the Department of Education. He also proposed legislation designed to enhance school choice for children on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. While I haven’t heard or seen Cruz speak much to the other areas on my docket, I am giving him a little bit extra because he has shown a willingness to lead on issues.

The only faults I find with his Enhancing Educational Opportunities for All Act is that it only benefits lower-income children. If every child has a right to a quality education, every child should benefit, as Paul points out.

Some may ask why I feel that way, since wealthier students can likely afford private schools. However, the chances are good that they invest more in the system through paying higher property taxes, so they should be given the same opportunity. Remember, money is only following the child to the extent a state would support him or her, so any overage would be borne by the parents.

Total score for Cruz – 4.2 of 5.

Bobby Jindal was for Common Core for awhile, but now notes the more parents and teachers deal with it the more they dislike it - he also thinks it will “strip away state’s rights.”

Yet he’s definitely hurt in my process because, while he argues that federal control should revert back to the states, he only wants to return the Department of Education “to its original intended purpose.” There was no intended purpose for the Department of Education except to suck up to the teachers’ unions for backing Jimmy Carter. They just wanted a Cabinet-level department.

Bobby’s only reason for scoring as high as he does is that he has done the most to create a situation in Louisiana where money indeed follows the child regardless of school type – a roster which includes online schools. In doing so, he has also shown the true feelings of teachers’ unions, who claimed Jindal’s reforms “would destabilize the state’s public education system and reduce teachers’ job security. They also claimed parents are not mentally equipped to choose a good education for their children.” (Emphasis mine.)

Once he realizes that the federal government is infested with bureaucrats who think the same way, Jindal could do a lot of good.

Total score for Jindal – 4.0 of 5.

It dawned on me that the reason Rick Perry doesn’t speak out as forcefully against Common Core is that his state never adopted it. He also wasn’t as forceful about dismantling the Department of Education, although it was part of the gaffe that ended his 2012 campaign.

Yet the reason, Perry claims, why his state did not do any federal programs was that Texas had established higher standards. He had also called upon colleges in his state to create degree programs which could cost no more than $10,000, which several Texas universities have achieved. It’s a initiative Perry claims has spread to Florida and California.

Of course, the question isn’t whether these state initiatives can be done at the federal level but whether Rick can stand by as President and allow the laggards to fail. He seems to understand, though, that education is a local issue.

Total score for Perry – 3.8 of 5.

The one thing that sticks out about Lindsey Graham is his support for homeschooled kids, for whom he vows “you have no better friend. He also expresses his opposition to Common Core as a tool of coercion, which is good but maybe not quite as good as those above him.

However, he has previously worked to eliminate the Department of Education and supported tax measures aimed at assisting young educators with their student loans. It’s not a idea I could wholeheartedly back because I dislike pandering via tax code, but it will be interesting to see how Graham’s campaign develops on this front and hear some of his other thoughts.

Total score for Graham – 3.4 of 5.

Mike Huckabee was once for Common Core, believing it needed a “rebrand,” but now is against it saying “We must kill Common Core and restore common sense.” Whether that means some sort of standards just for public schools or not, his thinking has changed dramatically. But it could be better late than never, unlike Jeb Bush.

Mike is an advocate of school choice, claiming he was the first governor to place a homeschooling parent on his state board of education, and also noted that he increased teacher pay. He also thinks the federal Department of Education has “flunked” and needs to be “expelled.”

While he says the right things, I just don’t trust him to be a forceful advocate for sound educational policy. I just sense that Big Education will roll over him.

Total score for Huckabee – 2.8 of 5.

While he is new to the race, Chris Christie has a 15-point reform agenda which he believes “can and should be a model for reform for the nation.” It covers a number of subjects: teacher tenure and pay, school choice, charter schools, college affordability and accountability, and ideas for higher education.

Unfortunately, what it doesn’t tell me is what he would do to eliminate federal involvement; in fact, as this is written it sound to me like he would simply make New Jersey’s initiatives nationwide. Other states should succeed (or fail) on their own merits, but I would encourage them to adopt ideas like “stackable credentials,” apprenticeships, and credit for prior experience.

Total score for Christie – 2.6 of 5.

More than any other candidate, Marco Rubio talks about the federal role in college financing. But he also talks about alternatives such as vocational education and believes parents need to be empowered through the enhanced choice of educational scholarships that they can use anywhere. Local control also extends to curriculum, and Rubio suggested that the Department of Education may be eliminated.

But if the federal government is going to have a role in college financial aid, it’s likely that no federal agency will be eliminated. Rubio seems to be on a populist rather than conservative path, with the major difference being Uncle Sam’s role in financing school. Why should they have any role in something the private sector could easily do?

Total score for Rubio – 2.5 of 5.

Scott Walker has a mixed record on the important subject of Common Core. He will say he’s against it, but hasn’t gone out of his way to eliminate it in Wisconsin. And while his state has gone farther than most to install a measure of school choice, there are a number of restrictions and only certain families qualify, so it’s not always a case of money following the child.

Like Huckabee and Graham above him, Walker is a strong backer of homeschooling. He also has shown the teachers’ unions he’s the boss, but has been silent on what he would do with the Department of Education and doesn’t speak a great deal about local control. This puts him more squarely in the middle of the pack.

Total score for Walker – 2.5 of 5.

I don’t know if Rick Santorum intentionally stole the tagline of “common sense not Cfommon Core” from Mike Huckabee or vice-versa. But that’s about all he talks about, aside from a nod to local control which he doesn’t really come out and embrace.

One thing that I would expect Rick to talk more about is vocational education, considering he has supported the rebirth of manufacturing. But nothing has been said, at least that I’ve found.

Total score for Santorum – 2.4 of 5.

George Pataki was the governor of New York for 11 years, so a large portion of his agenda is an extension of his record there. So while he says that “Common Core should go” and that education should be local, he would not rid us of the Department of Education, but retain it in a “very limited role.”

The idea of tax credits that could apply in either a public or private system has a little bit of merit, though, and that’s what pushes him ahead of other contenders – that is, assuming he could use his office as a bully pulpit to get states to adopt this.

Total score for Pataki – 2.2 of 5.

In his educational platformBen Carson talks mainly about local control and that Common Core must be “overturned,” which is good. School choice is also a subject he has touched on.

But aside from the platitudes and buzzwords, I really don’t see a lot of depth in what Carson has to say. And, like Pataki, there’s one thing which definitely detracts from his overall score – he will not eliminate the Department of Education. While I don’t agree the Department should be an arbiter of speech, I really don’t agree that any government agency will accept a reduction in its role – it simply must be uprooted.

Short of some major pronouncements of policy regarding issues others above have touched on, this is not a strong category for Ben.

Total score for Carson – 2.0 of 5.

In several ways, Jeb Bush is like Rick Perry and others above. His state has been a leader in school choice, he advocates for digital schools conducted online (think of a high school version of the University of Phoenix, to use a familiar example) and he favors school choice.

But the issue I have is that he would prefer a top-down approach, and while he argues Common Core should not be construed as a federal creation of standards (which is true to an extent, as a private entity created and licenses it) he still encourages the federal government to have a role in education, to provide “carrots and sticks.” Those carrots and sticks should be created by the market, not the federal government.

Total score for Bush – 1.8 of 5.

For all I know, Donald Trump could be good on education – perhaps he could make it into one giant for-profit enterprise and eliminate the government altogether. But I doubt it.

And aside from thinking Common Core will “kill Bush” (he is against it, though) and believing education should be local, there’s not much on the Donald’s educational platform. I hate the lack of specifics, and if he was to run based solely on educational philosophy I would fire him.

Total score for Trump – 1.0 of 5.

Aside from a number of vague statements about school vouchers, the size of federal impact, and the thought that Common Core limits parents’ options, Carly Fiorina really hasn’t put together much of an educational platform. And some question her change of tune from her Senate run four years ago.

When others have an agenda that is well spelled out, the lack of specifics from Fiorina sticks out like a sore thumb.

Total score for Fiorina – 0.5 of 5.

Next up will be a category with considerably less nuance and a value of six points – the Second Amendment. And as a programming note, I think I will leave this up through Sunday night and otherwise leave the site dark for Independence Day.

Carson, Carly, and Huckabee – oh my…

By this time tomorrow, the GOP presidential field will be three aspirants larger than it was over the weekend.

Dr. Ben Carson and former HP head Carly Fiorina formally made it official today, while 2008 candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is expected to throw his hat back in the ring tomorrow. So what does that mean for the field at large?

We’ve known Carson was going to run for several months, and though there’s some local sentiment which wishes he would instead pursue the Republican nomination for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat currently held by the retiring Barb Mikulski, a run for the Oval Office has been on Carson’s radar ever since he first attracted notice at the National Prayer Breakfast a couple years ago. Anyway, his run is already priced into the market, so to speak, so the Carson cadre will continue supporting their candidate as he holds the “outsider” position in the race.

In 2008 and 2012, those who believed a businessman should be the one to run the country needed to look no further than Mitt Romney. While he’s not running in 2016, there is another business executive who is (and at this point, his name is not Donald Trump.) Carly Fiorina also makes the case that the best way to combat Hillary Clinton is to nominate a female to run against her.

This is a legitimate argument, but the question is whether it’s compelling enough to give her any traction in the race. Fiorina’s lone political experience was losing a Senate race in California, and while losing a race in a tough state doesn’t disqualify her, it brings up whether she can win.

And then we have Mike Huckabee, who I actually voted for in 2008 as the last somewhat conservative alternative standing to John McCain. Yet there must be a sense out there that the world has passed him by, and the conventional wisdom is that he fights for the same social conservative voters that gravitate to Ted Cruz. Granted, the one thing he has that Cruz does not is executive experience but I suspect more than a few people think of Huckabee more as a huckster than a politician, given his seven years away from the active political stage.

As it stands, I think the second tier is filling out nicely. But like American Pharaoh needed seventeen other horses to run against to earn the roses at the Kentucky Derby, the front-runners Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Cruz, and Marco Rubio need a field to sharpen their campaigns. Then again, one in awhile the longshot wins and several Presidential nominees were thought to have no shot at victory in the early stages of their campaign. That description fits this guy named Obama in 2007, but let’s hope the 2016 version can undo all his damage and then some.

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.

The new “it” candidate

In each Presidential cycle, there always seems to be a candidate who breaks through against the conventional wisdom choices and becomes popular because he is a new face and excites the populace. Barack Obama was one of those in 2007, and he rode that early wave of popularity all the way through to the White House. They are usually from the opposition party to the one in the White House.

But aside from Obama, usually that particular politician flames out early in the process just as Howard “the Scream” Dean did in 2004 and Herman Cain did in 2011. So whether the cycle is going back in the other direction or we’ll hear the same old song is up to the voting public.

This cycle’s early “it” candidate has been through the electoral wringer quite a bit in the last four years, though, so he’s not exactly a completely unknown quantity. But over the last couple weeks, since the Iowa Freedom Summit, the star of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has rapidly ascended in the Republican ranks, putting him up into the top tier of candidates. Walker drew praise from no less than Rush Limbaugh, who believed the Wisconsin governor has clearly expressed a conservative manner of governance in his tenure over a previously staunchly Democratic state. “I believe Scott Walker is the blueprint for the Republican Party if they are serious about beating the left,” said Rush.

Walker, who recently formed an exploratory committee, comes into the race as one of several successful GOP governors. It’s a group that includes recent or current governors in Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Chris Christie, along with former governors Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush. This group with executive experience has served to push back many of the other contenders, such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, who don’t have as much time in the national spotlight. (One exception in that group is Rand Paul, who remains among the top dogs.)

Yet the argument for a candidate like Walker is simple in light of the last six-plus years of having a president who learned on the job: it’s time to put the adults back in charge. In fact, you have to reach all the way down the Democratic field to Martin O’Malley to find a person who’s actually run anything on a scale that several GOP aspirants have – and O’Malley’s legacy was so poor that he couldn’t even get his lieutenant governor to succeed him in a majority-Democratic state. Otherwise, their top half-dozen contenders got their political experience mainly from the Senate and despite the oversized ego required to be a Senator they really don’t have a lot of qualifications for the job. Good or bad, four of the preceding five Presidents before Obama served as governors of their state.

The question going forward will be how much scrutiny Walker will receive, although having survived both a recall effort and re-election should mean there’s not too many secrets we don’t know about him. Much will be made about Walker’s lack of a college degree (he attended Marquette University but did not graduate) but it hasn’t stopped him from running the ship of state in Wisconsin. Consider him a magna cum laude graduate of the School of Hard Knocks.

I can see why Walker would be popular, though. He has the record of success against Big Labor Chris Christie can only dream of and beaten them back at the polls in a way John Kasich of Ohio could not. And while he doesn’t have the job creation record of a Rick Perry in Texas, his state also doesn’t have the energy potential Texas has. Wisconsin did rank fourth last year in the number of new manufacturing jobs, as industry has traditionally been the state’s economic bread and butter.

So is Walker the outsider the GOP rank-and-file is looking for? Time will tell, but he’s the buzz on social media right now and for good reason.

Romney takes the exit ramp

It’s all over the news today – sort of a Friday afternoon news dump, but definitely fodder for the Sunday talk shows: 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney said he was taking a pass on the 2016 race.

In their coverage, Fox News cited a poll from earlier this week that showed the race without Romney narrowly favored Jeb Bush, who had 15% of the vote in a wide open field. (Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul were at 13% apiece, Ben Carson was at 10%, and Scott Walker at 9%.)

Romney was the leader in many polls at this early date, with the caveat that polls this far out are heavily based on name recognition. But Mitt’s withdrawal, coupled with the decision earlier this month by his running mate Paul Ryan to stay in the House, means there’s no real odds-on favorite based on previous runs, unless voters decide Sarah Palin is not past her expiration date.

The conventional wisdom is that the money and advisers who would have worked on the Romney campaign will gravitate toward Jeb Bush and not Chris Christie – the guy who fits the Northeastern governor mold that Romney carved out last time. It’s probably why this poll conducted by Fox News worked out as it did. But the fact that 85% of the voters don’t support Jeb Bush and three times as many of those polled prefer one of the next four candidates down means that the GOP electorate isn’t nearly as sold on the younger Bush as Democrats are sold on the “better half” of the Clintons. To me, those who sat out the 2012 election because they weren’t excited about Mitt Romney are going to make it two in a row if Jeb Bush is the GOP standard-bearer.

If 2016 is another Bush-Clinton match 24 years later (with different players) my prediction is that we will see a record low turnout. I also think honest historians a century hence will see this run of Presidents from Bush 41 through Obama as the weakest since the group from William Henry Harrison through James Buchanan – a two-decade period where the United States couldn’t resolve the slavery issue and fought a war with Mexico, although they won. Granted, two of the seven presidents during that era died in office, but none of them served more than a single term in a restless time in our history. In the modern era, we have seen government grow and become more lawless, fought a pair of unpopular wars abroad, and watched the middle class struggle in a tumultuous economy. It’s not certain whether Mitt Romney would have turned that tide, but he didn’t win in 2012 and history isn’t very kind to nominees who lose a general election yet run again the next time.

The 2016 election really doesn’t have a parallel in the recent past. 2012 was a lot like 1996 in that they both pitted incumbent Democrats whose party was creamed in the most recent midterm election prior to those years (2010 and 1994.) But both Democrats survived when the GOP put up “establishment” moderate candidates in Mitt Romney and Bob Dole.

We need a path to victory in 2016, and Mitt Romney probably sensed he wasn’t the guy. It would take a lot to convince me Jeb Bush would be that person, too.

 

A Palin problem?

January 27, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

As the 2016 Republican presidential field begins to expand rapidly, there is one name that evokes equal parts devotion and disgust: Sarah Palin. The question of whether or not she would run in 2012 sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the early days of that race, yet this time she’s not the slam-dunk favorite some thought she was in the wake of her 2008 candidacy – which I would argue revitalized a somnolent John McCain campaign – and the 2010 TEA Party wave election. Certainly others with longer gubernatorial records can boast more relevance.

On the other hand, there is a significant portion of the conservative electorate which loved her story and honest willingness to stand up for those principles in a humorous manner. I was there two years ago when at CPAC Palin mocked the effort to ban large-sized sodas by taking a few sips out of a Big Gulp during her speech. It’s an approach which is apparently off-putting to some in the Republican establishment – witness the acid tone of this recent National Review Online piece by Charles C. W. Cooke from which I excerpt:

For a long while now, Palin has not so much contributed arguments and ideas as she has thrown together a one-woman variety show for a band of traveling fans. One part free verse, one part Dada-laden ressentiment, and one part primal scream therapy, Palin’s appearances seem to be designed less to advance the ball for the Right and more to ensure that her name remains in the news, that her business opportunities are not entirely foreclosed, and that her hand remains strong enough to justify her role as kingmaker without portfolio. Ultimately, she isn’t really trying to change politics; she’s trying to be politics — the system and its complexities be damned. Want to find a figure to which Palin can be reasonably compared? It’s not Ronald Reagan. It’s Donald Trump.

That is an interesting comparison considering that Donald Trump is making news again about running for President – at least enough noise that Breitbart News took the time to speak with him about it.

Yet while it can be argued that Trump has plenty of both business acumen and self-promotional skills – qualities Palin also has, as evidenced by her frequent forays into series television and devoted fan following – Trump has never taken the helm of the ship of state. His one advantage, which would certainly be turned against his by class-warfare-exploiting liberals, is that he’s willing to self-finance his campaign. Donald is definitely part of the 1 percent, while Sarah Palin’s chief sin seems to be the aspiration to join him despite her modest upbringing.

I’ve noted before that eight years can sometimes be the period of political rehabilitation, with the pre-Watergate Richard Nixon being an example. Having lost the 1960 Presidential election as the sitting Vice-President, he then ran in 1962 to be governor of California and lost again. But Nixon stayed active in the political world and reclaimed the GOP nomination in 1968. Similarly, Sarah Palin set her political office aside in 2009 but has stayed active in that “kingmaker” role with some success, campaigning for Republicans around the country.

Yet Sarah will not be the only one with executive experience who can appeal to Republicans. Just a cursory glance at some in the possible field reveals that a number of recent or current governors may jump in: Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker are among those mentioned, and all have more time in their governor’s office than Palin’s two-plus years.

Just as I would say to any of those I mentioned above, the more the merrier. The GOP field is perhaps the most wide open in memory, with a number of good candidates that a deep bench provides. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the heavy favorite – but she was at this stage in the 2008 campaign as well, even with a fairly large initial field as the Democrats were the party out of power the previous eight years. But there are likely many rank-and-file Democrats who would like a break from the Clinton circus and may not be keen on the prospects of a President Biden, so their side is a little dispirited and less than enthusiastic.

There’s a school of thought out there which believes the political opposition will tell you who they are most afraid of by the amount of ridicule and criticism heaped their way. In that respect Sarah Palin is a leader because she gets flak from both the Left and the establishment Republicans, and it’s one aspect where the Reagan comparison is quite apt.

The values voters speak

Obviously I’ve been concerned about the upcoming Maryland election, and we’re probably four to six months away from the formal beginnings of the 2016 Presidential campaign on both sides of the aisle. But over the weekend, while Allen West was speaking to us, a few of his former Congressional colleagues were addressing the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington in an attempt to gain support. Ted Cruz narrowly topped the field in their annual straw poll, drawing 25% of the vote and besting fellow contenders Ben Carson (20%), Mike Huckabee (12%), and Rick Santorum (10%). Leading a second tier were Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul, both with 7% of the 901 votes cast.

Also worth talking about were the issues this group was most concerned with: protecting religious liberty topped the list, with abortion a strong second. Interestingly enough, protecting natural marriage was the top vote-getter as the number 3 issue on people’s lists, but was seventh as a choice for number one contender and a distant third as a second place issue. Whether people are begrudgingly accepting same-sex unions due to isolated votes and ill-considered judicial decisions overturning the expressed will of the people or see it more as a religious liberty issue based on the experiences of those who object is an open question, though.

The other open question is just how much this voting bloc will take in terms of being ignored. There is a bloc of the Republican Party which says that social issues are to be avoided because it alienates another, supposedly larger group of moderate voters. Needless to say, Democrats exploit this as well – the Maryland gubernatorial race is a good example.

Even the Baltimore Sun concedes that “(p)ortraying Larry Hogan as a hard-core right-wing Republican is part of Brown’s strategy.” This despite Hogan’s insistence that Maryland settled the abortion issue 22 years ago in a referendum, just as they decided same-sex unions in 2012. To believe the other side, these votes were overwhelming mandates; in the 1992 case they have a point but not so much the same-sex unions one which passed by less than 5% on the strength of a heavy Montgomery County vote (just six counties voted yes, but it was enough.)

Yet I believe the abortion balloting is open to question because attitudes about abortion have changed. According to Gallup, the early 1990s were the nadir for the pro-life movement so perhaps the question isn’t the third rail political consultants seem to believe. To be perfectly honest, while there’s no question where I stood on the more recent Question 6 regarding same-sex unions I would have likely been more neutral on the 1992 version at the time because in my younger days I leaned more to the pro-choice side. I didn’t really become pro-life until I thought through the ramification of the right to life for the unborn and how it trumped the mother’s so-called right to privacy. Exceptions for rape and incest I could buy – although I would strongly prefer the child be carried to term and given to a loving adoptive family – but not unfettered baby murder just as a method of birth control. Now I’m firmly on the pro-life side.

So when Larry Hogan makes these statements about how certain items are off-limits because at some past point voters have spoken doesn’t make those who have faith-based core beliefs overly confident in a Hogan administration as an alternative to Anthony Brown. They may hold their nose and vote for Hogan, but they won’t be the people who are necessary cogs in a campaign as volunteers and financial contributors.

On the other hand, there is a better possibility we could see action on these fronts with the federal government, even if it’s only in terms of selecting a Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade (placing the matter with the states where it belongs) and understands there is a legitimate religious objection to same-sex nuptials and funding abortions via health insurance as mandated by Obamacare.

We’ve been told for years that conservatives can’t win if they stress social issues. But on the federal level I’ve noticed that even when Republicans haven’t been addressing the social side we have lost, so why not motivate a set of voters which serves as the backbone of America?

More restaurant business

Seeing how successful the original was – at least in making for a good story – a political activist is trying to recreate the grassroots magic which punctuated the Chick-fil-A business surge in 2012.

The brainchild of Eric Odom, who is the Managing Director of a media site called the Liberty News Network and also acts as the Director of Interactive Media for Grassfire Lab, the intent of Chick-Phil-A Day seems to be recreating the same atmosphere as the 2012 protests in the same locale, desptite the fact Chick-fil-A has nothing to do with the Robertson family and isn’t an active participant in the protest. Odom notes this on the Facebook page announcing the effort, which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21.

Obviously this comes in the wake of the entire ‘Duck Dynasty’ controversy, and participants are urged to “Stand For Free Speech. Sit For Good Food.” They’re also asked to arrive in Duck Commander or camoflauge clothing. As of this writing, over 55,000 have signed up with earlier press reports claiming a number in the 45,000 range. So it’s growing rapidly.

But there are a number of differences between the Odom effort and the 2012 protest, which was led by onetime Presidential candidate and media personality Mike Huckabee. For one, Huckabee’s call had a very short lead time of about a week, so the idea was fresh on people’s minds; moreover, it was in the middle of the summer of a presidential election year, when activists are most rabid.  This effort is being put together far more slowly at a time when news is slow and people are still in holiday mode.

So I’m not sure just what to expect considering how quickly the Phil Robertson story blew up, and maybe the question is why not support Cracker Barrel since they readjusted their stance on the Duck Dynasty items after consumer blowback. Obviously the effect is more noticeable at a Chick-Fil-A, though, and the restaurants are far more common. (In this area, the closest Cracker Barrel is about 75 miles away. One was rumored to be planned for Salisbury but it apparently fell through.)

I sort of suspect that people may have moved on to other diversions once the holidays are over because reruns of ‘Duck Dynasty’ are still being aired and the newest Season 5 episodes – all but one of which were already taped with Phil Robertson – premiere January 15. There may be a small bump in the traffic for Chick-fil-A but I don’t think it will be anywhere near as large as the August 2012 protests were.

And that’s a good thing, because the innocent lady who happens to have a very similar Twitter handle to the event name (as I found out when I did the Google search for the term) will probably like not to have tons of traffic.

The declaration of (courting) independents

It doesn’t seem like this issue will ever die.

You might recall that after our Maryland GOP Spring Convention earlier this year I posted a piece critiquing the thoughts of Don Murphy, a former Delegate and longtime party activist who has been fighting a crusade for many years to open up the Republican primary to unaffiliated voters, perhaps with the idea of welcoming them to the party eventually. His reasoning seemed sound: a number of like-minded Northeastern states open their primaries because they have a plurality of unaffiliated voters.

But the MDGOP appears to be interested in revisiting the process, as Erin Cox writes in the Baltimore Sun, and it may set us up for yet another contentious convention this fall in Annapolis. And while Brian Griffiths uses the evidence of past election results in his post on Red Maryland today, I honestly believe that’s a little bit of a red herring argument.

In Maryland today, the registration numbers lay out as follows (from the June report):

  • Democrats: 2,073,619 (55.6%)
  • Republicans: 959,120 (25.7%)
  • minor parties – Libertarian, Green, Americans Elect, and other unrecognized: 59,644 (1.6%)
  • unaffiliated: 636,716 (17.1%)

Four years ago at the same point in the cycle, the percentages weren’t a lot different. There are now 300,000 more voters in Maryland, but numerically they line up similarly:

  • Democrats: 1,942,336 (56.9%)
  • Republicans: 909,848 (26.7%)
  • minor parties and other unrecognized: 80,034 (2.3%)
  • unaffiliated: 478,817 (14.0%)

A number of the unaffiliated are likely former Independents, which is no longer a separate category.

And I’m sure some fret that eventually the unaffiliated will catch up to the Republicans – a 3% gain every four years coupled with a 1% loss in Republicans would put that date sometime early next decade. My contention, however, is that there are a significant proportion of Democrats who are so because their primary is the only race they can vote on.

But opening up the GOP primary to unaffiliated voters isn’t going to be enough of a draw for voters who have no local Republican candidates on the ballot for whom to vote. For example, in Prince George’s County’s 2010 primary – perhaps the most unbalanced in the state – once you departed the federal and statewide races there were exactly zero contested GOP races at the legislative level and just two local races (both for Central Committee seats) where the GOP had more contenders than winners. I admire the Prince George’s GOP for their efforts (my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen hails from there) but what would help them more than anything are candidates willing to stand up and hoist the GOP banner. Allowing unaffiliated voters into the GOP primary wouldn’t change the game.

Now I’m sure those who favor the idea will argue I used the most extreme example. Yet even if every single voter not connected with the Democratic Party decided to become a Republican, AND we could attract the 10 percent or so of Democrats statewide who are affiliated that way because their daddy was a Democrat but vote straight-ticket Republican – we’re still a minority. Barely, but still looking at a deficit and up against the hardcore elements of a power-drunk party.

Personally, though, I think the idea seems to come up when the Republicans are threatening to run conservative candidates for office. When I was living in Ohio, their Republican Party always seemed to anoint the most moderate candidate and overtly try and eliminate any more conservative primary competition for that person. And what did we get? Sixteen years of ruining the Republican brand with tax-and-spend governors, particularly Bob Taft. (Unfortunately, John Kasich isn’t doing much better now that he’s been spooked by the unions.)

Here in Maryland, the talk of opening up the primary died down when Bob Ehrlich won and through the three cycles where he was the all-but-endorsed choice of the Maryland GOP apparatus there was no chatter about adding unaffiliated voters to the mix. But now that we have a more spirited competition between several good candidates, the powers-that-be are presumably trying to make sure the most moderate, “electable” candidate prevails. As a conservative, pro-liberty Marylander who would like to see a governor tell the Democrats it’s his way or the highway, I would like a leader and not someone who sticks his finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. Mitt Romney and John McCain were supposed to be “electable” in a way that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, et. al. were not.

If unaffiliated voters want to vote in a primary, it’s very easy to change your registration to Republican. Get good candidates worth voting for and they will come.

Update: A non-scientific poll by Jackie Wellfonder at Raging Against the Rhetoric found that support was perfectly mixed: 44% for, 44% against, and 12% undecided out of 75 who responded.

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