Addressing the crowded stage

May 22, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

A few months ago, sensing the GOP may have up to 15 candidates in the race, I wrote about how the Republican presidential primary debates should be structured. With the addition of several candidates over the last month – I have 15 now listed on my sidebar – that may become a reality.

So the question is how these debates will be structured. According to Matea Gold in the Washington Post, Fox News will only take the top 10 in an average of national polls for their debates, while CNN will do the same with a twist – giving the bottom-feeders their own forum as well.

And forum seems to be a more operative word because there are a number of issues these candidates will agree on. Of course, the moderators (with the possible, but doubtful, exception of Fox News) will likely concentrate on the issues they perceive will create the most “gotcha” moments for the Democrat’s campaign to exploit – look for questions on social issues, repealing the most popular aspects of Obamacare, and “tax cuts for the rich” to lead the way, along with trying to get the candidates to throw George W. Bush under the bus.

My thoughts on the contenders buying their way into a debate and splitting the field into three (or more) groups, randomly selected, is one thing. But commentator Dan Calabrese believes in the flip side: “Get rid of the debates. They’re stupid.”

These meat parades are about the silliest spectacles ever to rear their heads in politics, and let us count the reasons this is true:

1. They are not debates. A debate is an argument between two people who disagree about something, or about many things. These are attention-grabbing contests in which each person on stage is trying to convince you of the same thing – that he/she is the true conservative, the true heir to Reagan, the true believer in small government, the real tax-cutter, whatever. Or they’re looking for the opportunity to say that someone else on stage (or maybe everyone else in stage) is not those things. I’m not sure what you call that, but I know what it isn’t, and that’s a debate.

2. The media should have no role in this performance theater, and certainly not as the “moderators.” Having them there simply makes it a glorified joint press conference, but it’s a bizarre press conference in which the people holding the press conference have no idea what they’re there to talk about, because the media could ask them about anything from Syria to health care to boxers vs. briefs. (And they will.) When the media rides its hubris for all it’s worth, you remember the media more than you remember the candidates. Bernard Shaw. Candy Crowley. Unless they want to run, get them off the stage.

3. Momentary anomalies come to define candidates in ways that should never happen. Rick Perry was the worst victim of this I ever saw. A momentary mental block kept him from recalling one of the three cabinet-level departments he had proposed eliminating, and the brain freeze was instantly seized upon as the end of his campaign. Which it was. That was crap. Say what you want about whether Perry would make a good president, but anyone can lose their train of thought in a moment, and what usually happens is you say to someone, “Hey, I’m having a mental block, what was that thing?” And they tell you, and you say oh yeah, and that’s that. It has nothing to do with your ability to do the job of president, nor does your reaction to someone’s zinger or a brief look of surprise that someone decides to call a “deer in the headlights moment.” These isolated events are stupid and irrelevant, and yet they are used to define you by people who are stupid and should be irrelevant.

4. We never learn anything. In fact, we often come away from a debate more ignorant than we were when it started. If you want to know a candidate’s position on something, go to his web site. If you want to know the legitimate criticisms of him, research that independently. If you judge anyone – positively or negatively – based on what they can say for themselves in a span of 30 seconds, you should be disqualified from voting.

I’ve often said that a candidate can’t (and shouldn’t) be judged on a 30-second commercial, but the sad fact is that a majority of voters do just that. It definitely bothers me because I lay a lot of time and effort into the process of selecting my candidate based on how they address the issues I care about and document my search – unfortunately I reach but a tiny fraction of the voters even one 30-second spot on a cable news network would (with the possible exception of MSNBC, where my readership may match their viewership.) Even if a half-million people actually watch the GOP debates, all the negative statements and gaffes (like Perry’s) are immediately beamed to a much larger audience.

Yet if we don’t have these forums, there is the question of whether certain issues would be addressed. I realize this can lead to pandering to a particular audience, which is a complaint I’ve had with some local forums such as the NAACP ones, but at least it’s understood going in that the audience will be listening for the answers to their particular concerns. If I had a forum, I’m sure I would ask a certain roster of questions, too, and sometimes when I attend these events I indeed have my questions asked.

So there’s really no fair process in place. Eventually the problem will work itself out to the extent that a few candidates will be out before the leaves change color, but Calabrese has a point.

My contention and wish, though, is that people do their due diligence in determining who they would vote for. I don’t think this was done sufficiently in the last two Presidential elections, so look at what we got. Granted, neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney may have been the answer, either, but I think we hardly could have done worse. Go back to 2007 and I can tell you why.

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.

Ted Cruz: a palette of bold colors

By Cathy Keim

I finally had the time today to watch the entire Ted Cruz speech at Liberty University on March 23, 2015, where he announced that he is running for president. It seems certain that he has locked up the conservative right position. I don’t see that he left room for anybody to get past him, nor am I sure that there is anybody who would try. He is going to run a campaign that many conservatives have been calling for: A conservative running unapologetically as a conservative.

His campaign, if he continues on this course – and I see no reason he would budge since he has been saying the same thing since he arrived in Washington – will put to the test the notion that a true conservative can win the presidency. John McCain and Mitt Romney never even tried to run as all out conservatives.

Sarah Palin was the closest to an all out conservative in those two cycles and she was hampered by being the vice presidential candidate, so she had to march to John McCain’s orders. Many folks believe that he would have lost by an even greater margin if he had not had her on the ticket.

Since Mitt Romney chose a moderate GOP insider, Paul Ryan, as his vice president and got even fewer votes than John McCain, there may be reason to believe that theory.

We can expect that all the dirt that was thrown at Sarah Palin will be turned onto Ted Cruz. One twist is that the liberal media and politicians will not be able to use his alma mater since Ted Cruz has the credentials from Princeton and Harvard Law to stand up to any of the jabs. He also has the debating skills and the spine to resist the onslaught.

He will have the same fight that Palin has had that is even worse than being attacked by the opposing party – the GOP will viciously savage him. The mainstream GOP has already shown their disdain for Senator Cruz as they have not backed him in any of his efforts to fight for the Constitution, against Obamacare, and against executive overreach.

In an article for the Boston Herald, Jennifer C. Braceras points out that Ted Cruz is the mirror image of Obama, standing for exactly opposite positions, but with eerily similar backgrounds. She even addresses the birther problem:

Indeed, similarities extend even to bizarre “birther” claims that neither men are “natural born citizens” qualified to be president.

Cruz — whose father fled Castro’s Cuba — was born in Canada. Obama was born in Hawaii, although some on the right question whether he was actually born in Kenya (his father’s birthplace). The question of birthplace is, of course, irrelevant — both men were born to American mothers, thereby granting them U.S. citizenship at birth and making them “natural born citizens” for purposes of the Constitution.

While she does not see the birther issue as a problem, she does postulate that the electorate will not stand for another brilliant Harvard law grad after eight years of our current one.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Ted Cruz. I supported his 2012 run for Senate because I remember him from law school as a brilliant, intellectually curious, and hard-working conservative whose political views closely tracked my own.

So somebody who says they like his views and finds him brilliant concludes by saying that he doesn’t have a chance because of the Harvard arrogance tag. With friends like this, you don’t need enemies.

The mirror image comparison to President Obama is interesting, but fails to address a key difference. President Obama does not like America and Senator Ted Cruz does. What a sea change that simple distinction makes.

Furthermore, I have observed that people of principle who work hard in their field of endeavor because of their firmly held principles, are frequently savaged by their peers because they recognize that this individual is different than they are. The principled approach to life encourages accusations of arrogance because of the assurance with which principled people conduct their lives. Once their mind is made up on the course of action, they will pursue their goal even if it is not popular. This can seem like arrogance to people who cannot understand what they are seeing since they run their lives not on principle, but on public approbation.

Jeb Bush is gearing up for a run and he has already made clear that he will not be courting the conservative branch of the GOP. He is for amnesty, Common Core, and his energy policies are wrong. The biggest hurdle may be the burden of bearing the Bush name. Many citizens are not interested in a family dynasty ruling over them.

Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, has been making a lot of news with the possibility of running. He has been an effective governor in a blue state and has taken on the unions and won. He is certainly a candidate to watch. As a counterpoint to Ted Cruz’s Ivy League background, Walker attended Marquette University, but never graduated. Some people will see that as a negative, but just as many may see it as a plus after observing what so many Ivy League alumni serving as politicians, media people, and government leaders have done to our country.

Ben Carson is contemplating a run, but after the gay mafia firestorm he caused by offering an opinion on whether one is born gay, many wrote him off.

There are many others considering a run. Time will tell how many actually jump in the ring.

It would behoove the conservatives to make their decision as quickly as possible, throw their weight behind one candidate, and once the decision is made to stand firm. The onslaught from both the Democrats and the GOP insiders will be brutal. Nothing is to be gained by attacking the conservative candidate for every perceived misstep. Instead, once the choice is made, the conservatives need to close ranks and fight hard for the battle will be vicious. Every conservative candidate will be questioned over and over about gay and transgender issues, abortion, evolution, climate change, and religious freedom. They need to have their principles inform their position and then stand. Do not walk anything back once they say it and the conservative base needs to have their back.

This can all be done with a smile. It may be war, but engage in the battle with a smile because we are in to win. Our determination is based on the premise that we believe in what we are fighting for: no less than the soul of America.

The Democrats’ biggest fear (for now)

It’s a concept I first heard from Rush Limbaugh, but it makes common sense: your opponents will show you what they are most afraid of by what they speak about and the terms by which they do so. In this case, perhaps their biggest fear going into 2016 is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was the subject of a DNC e-mail I received featuring this quote:

The DNC characterized this as an unsavory comparison, which some called a “gaffe.”

Obviously Walker was trying to portray himself as one who actually has a spine, unlike a lot of those who are in federal office at this time.  As a governor he has little foreign policy experience, but he has faced down more than his share of policy-based adversaries given his stance against the public-sector unions in Wisconsin. (It’s interesting to note that the Democrats in that Wisconsin case turned tail and ran rather than stand and fight for their beliefs. Par for the course.)

But Scott Walker has surged to the top of the polls because he’s maintained a relatively conservative line through the four-plus years he’s served as Wisconsin governor, winning not just two but three elections where Democrats have thrown the kitchen sink at him, including a trumped-up ethics investigation. A state that was considered to be safe for Democrats is now up for grabs because a conservative has led it for an extended period of time and performed successfully. That turnaround and the fact he actually stared down a key liberal constituent group and prevailed explains much of Walker’s appeal at this stage of the game. It’s a record none of the Democrats currently eyeing the nomination can match.

You may also recall that Walker was the subject of liberal wailing and gnashing of teeth a week or so earlier when he didn’t bite on questions about Rudy Giuliani’s remark questioning Barack Obama’s love of America. Add this to the CPAC speech and more and more on the Right are convinced Scott Walker is the Left’s biggest fear going into 2016 – so, to the liberals, he must be destroyed at all costs. Walker is hardly an elite or establishment GOP fellow, and it’s that relationship with the common man that Democrats fear, unlike Mitt Romney who they could (and successfully did) portray as a Wall Street patrician.

At this point, though, what difference does it make? To Americans who want a clear choice for President it makes all the difference in the world.

Question of the night

February 19, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Politics · 2 Comments 

I haven’t set up an online poll for this – and there is the chance I may not, just using the comment section here and social media to see if my suspicions are correct – but I’m really curious to know what would happen if Jeb Bush wins the GOP nomination next year.

Anecdotally, the consensus seems to be that Jeb would make Mitt Romney’s 2012 vote total look really, really good. There are also some who postulate that a Bush family nomination for the fifth time in eight elections would bring about the end of the Republican Party, but I can’t see that happening with the way current ballot access laws are written.

I suppose there are several shades of answers I could get to the question I spelled out above. Some of these are:

  • I’m hoping Jeb Bush is the GOP nominee because he’s the best guy for the job and will bring millions of new voters to the GOP.
  • Jeb isn’t my first choice, but if he’s the nominee I’ll be backing him with my vote (and my checkbook and/or volunteer time.)
  • Meh. Jeb will be better than Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat. I’m going to concentrate on the Congressional and Senate races.
  • Jeb Bush = lesser of two evils.
  • Another Bush? I’m staying home.
  • I’m tired of the Republican Party always nominating squishy moderates, so I’m done with them if Jeb is the nominee.
  • Is there a link for the (pick your preference: Libertarian, Constitution, Conservative) Party on this site?
  • Any chance I can still sign up for that one-way trip to Mars?

So that’s my question of the night – call it an open thread. Be creative in your answers for bonus points.

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.

 

Testing the muddy waters

The GOP presidential field looks to be the deepest in many years as there are candidates coming out of the woodwork. It’s the time in the cycle when hopefuls make their intentions known, as Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham have done over the last few days.

All these candidates could make for a clunky debate, since an hourlong program with twenty candidates leaves very little time for broad exploration of the issues. And how do you determine who to invite and who to leave out? Right now there’s not just the known candidates, either – according to the FEC, 157 people have filed the necessary paperwork with them to run for president, with some barely waiting until the last election was over to file. I suppose in theory they should be in the debates, too.

But in response to a Facebook post about the prospect of who’s in and who’s shut out of the debates, I came up with a couple ideas I thought worthy of sharing with a wider audience.

Apparently there are 12 pre-primary debates scheduled, and the concern is having too many in the format – so they would use the polls to determine who gets in. To me, this is a problem because polls at this early stage are just name recognition – naturally a Mitt Romney or Jed Bush may poll much better than Walker or Graham, yet both could bring good ideas to the table. For example, Walker has taken a hardline stance against the abuses of Big Labor in government while Graham is a hawk when it comes to radical Islam.

So what I would propose is a debate not based on polls, but who can buy their way in. Anyone who has an exploratory committee or has filed, and can come up with a relatively significant amount – say $50,000 – can be in the debate regardless of poll numbers. (The money would be held in escrow for the eventual nominee.)

But Michael, you say, we would probably get 18 to 20 contenders, including one of those longshots who no one’s ever heard of. Well, the person would get one shot in what would be a series of hourlong debates, held on the same night in groups of 5 to 7, made as numerically equal as possible. Having 18 participants would mean three groups of six; groups which would be drawn at random so that the opening group in debate number 1 would be different the next time, and of course some will drop out or won’t be able to afford another debate.

If you assume the debates are the most important thing for a campaign at this early stage, then they should be open to whoever can afford the spot to get in. And if you complain about the monetary aspect, well, please come up with a better way of proving viability. It keeps the debate field to those who take it seriously and not those who just fill out the FEC paperwork as a lark or for publicity.

Now if we can get good debate moderators, we would be in good shape.

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.

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.

Bush redux

Just a day or so after the push continued to retool Mitt Romney for 2016, the counter-movement came from another Presidential family: on his Facebook page, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, the former governor of Florida, announced he would seek the office his father occupied for four years and his brother held for eight. While this wasn’t a complete surprise out of left field, the pundits speculated how it would affect the Presidential horserace for 2016 and seemed to believe that this move by Jeb was going to hurt the prospects of both Romney and Chris Christie.

Even the Democrats decided the prospect of another Bush was a good excuse to push for donations; then again, almost anything can be a reason for them to go begging.

I seem to recall we had 5% unemployment with a booming economy at the time the last Bush was in office, and it was 5% unemployment they didn’t have to drop millions from the workforce to achieve. So there is that.

Anyway, it looks like Jeb will be making his first run for the Oval Office. To be honest, if his last name were anything other than Bush I think more people would be very interested in his record and accomplishments. I recall at the time George W. Bush ran many already said the wrong Bush was running for the office.

But there is the question of whether eight years away from political office will make him more of a relic. Jeb has been out of office just as long as Bob Ehrlich, but while few believe our former governor has any shot at being President, there are those in the political world who believe Jeb is a shoo-in to be the Republican nominee. If so, that sets up the second Bush vs. Clinton election nearly a quarter-century after the first and the fifth out of the last seven to feature either a Clinton or Bush (or both) as a nominee. (Since Hillary ran in 2008, seven of the last eight Presidential campaigns have featured a Bush or Clinton. One can even argue it’s 9 of 10 if you count George H.W. Bush running as Reagan’s Vice-President in 1984 along with an abortive 1980 Bush campaign.)

Bush’s entrance into the race, though, may mean the “Ready for Romney” movement will be short-lived – and that’s not so bad.

Inevitability, though, has its pitfalls – just ask 2008 nominees Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Oh wait, neither won the nomination, did they? But through most of 2007 that was how the election was predicted to shake out – no chance the rest of the field would beat them; that is, until we counted the votes.

So if you are reading this from Iowa or New Hampshire, please say hello to Jeb for me when you see him, because chances are he will be in those places quite a bit. One advantage of being a retired public official is the schedule is pretty much free and I suspect Jeb will be a familiar face in those places.

Ready for…another shot?

Since the 2012 election came to an unsatisfying close, there’s been a portion of the Republican Party who wondered how Mitt Romney would have done with an open seat as opposed to facing an incumbent with those built-in advantages. That group must be the people behind the Ready for Romney movement.

Not much more than a website with a brief “about” page and donate button, the simple fact that some Republicans want Romney to stop being coy about it and make the commitment for a third consecutive run may be enough to make Mitt a front-runner. Historically, a major-party nominee who has lost before doesn’t fare too well – since 1900 William Jennings Bryan (Democrat. 1896 and 1900), Thomas Dewey (Republican, 1944 and 1948), and Adlai Stevenson (Democrat, 1952 and 1956) have lost two straight elections. Republican Richard Nixon bucked the trend but there was an interceding election as he lost in 1960 before winning eight years later. I don’t think anyone is clamoring for nearly 80-year-old John McCain, though.

Yet the question is whether Romney can turn things around for a Republican Party which has cleaned up at state and Congressional-level midterm elections in the last two cycles only to lose their way in the Presidential year. It seems like Republican leadership has already deemed Romney as one of the three most “electable” candidates (the other two being Jeb Bush and Chris Christie) while discounting the chances of one of the other sitting GOP governors, firebrand Senators who have developed a following like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Marco Rubio, or the outsider Dr. Ben Carson. Since the polls now are pretty much name recognition anyway, the true desire for another dose of Romney may be overstated.

The last time I compared Presidential candidates Mitt Romney was near the back of the pack, even worse than he was in 2007 during his first try. There were a number of candidates who I thought were better, but they all seemed to fall by the wayside for a number of reasons. The same is probably going to be true this time because there is an establishment Republican cadre of donors who will back Romney while smaller donors will spread their money among the half-dozen or so conservative favorites.

For these reasons and more, I sort of hope Mitt returns to being a private citizen to stay. The candidate we need for 2016 will have to be a broad reformer who will hit the ground running because he (or she) won’t have much time to waste. 2017 will, by electoral necessity, have to be a very busy year and it’s guaranteed the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) won’t be giving much of a honeymoon.

Pray for the best and prepare for the worst.

Carson for 2016?

It’s become a rite of passage for presidential hopefuls on both sides – the formation of a political action committee to gauge fundraising prowess and begin to collect IOUs for later political favors. So after a long runup where his name has been floated as a possible Republican contender, Dr. Ben Carson has taken that PAC creation step, dubbing the new organization the One Nation PAC. It builds on an unofficial online draft effort which has gone on for about a year.

Terry Giles, a businessman who would be Carson’s campaign chairman if he runs, told the Washington Times Thursday that the PAC was to “explore and analyze and engage in homework to determine what the political landscape would look like and how it might materialize for a Carson for President campaign.”

So a guy who back in December said he “thought when I retired I was going to play golf and learn how to play an organ” may instead make a bid for the highest office in the land. Quite honestly, I think the minority outsider part of the dance card might still be filled by Herman Cain; however, Carson has even less political experience than Cain did because Herman at least ran for a Senate seat from Georgia in 2004 before trying for the brass ring in 2011.

Having Cain to blaze the trail could be to Ben’s advantage, though. As he told The Weekly Standard in May:

I know how vehemently the left will come after you, try to destroy you, try to destroy your family. But at the same time I recognize that people like Nathan Hale – he said, ‘My only regret is I have but one life to give to my country’ … And if everybody runs for the hills because they’re afraid that somebody is going to attack them or their family, then [the left] will have won.

As the 2016 campaign will be for an open seat, like 2008′s was, there will be no shortage of Republican hopefuls vying for a place on the ballot. Rumors abound about everyone from the familiar names of Romney and (Jeb) Bush, to TEA Party favorites like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Sarah Palin, to a list of governors which includes Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Pence, and Chris Christie.

But with the exception of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Carson beat all those others at the CPAC Straw Poll in March. So there are a number of voters out there looking for a true political outsider.

I believe this step is the prelude to setting up the exploratory committee, regardless of how the fall elections go. No one wants to get in the ring this soon because many of those who are considering a 2016 bid have to make it through this year’s election first. Once the election and holidays pass us by, I would expect Carson to make a go of it.

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