Sunday, February 07, 2016


Here's Maureen Dowd today on the absence of poetry in Hillary Clinton's campaign rhetoric:
As a woman, as a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, she’s uniquely equipped to deliver a big, inspiring message with a showstopping speech that goes beyond income inequality, that sweeps up broader themes of intolerance, fusing the economic, cultural and international issues at stake.

She could, as one talented political speechwriter riffed, say something like this: “We’re a stronger country when more people have higher incomes; when women get paid the same as men; when we draw on the diverse talents of immigrants; when we show the world that America is a place that embraces all religions, that offers refuge to the persecuted and the terrorized. When a few old rich white men are the only ones who succeed, that’s not just unfair, it’s untenable.”
Yeah! Why won't Clinton say something like that in a speech? Or like this?
While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top 25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined. And, often paying a lower tax rate.

So, you have to wonder: “When does my hard work pay off? When does my family get ahead?”


I say now.

Prosperity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers.

Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations.

Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain too.

You brought our country back.

Now it’s time -- your time to secure the gains and move ahead.

And, you know what?

America can’t succeed unless you succeed.
Or this?
I believe that success isn’t measured by how much the wealthiest Americans have, but by how many children climb out of poverty...

How many start-ups and small businesses open and thrive...

How many young people go to college without drowning in debt...

How many people find a good job...

How many families get ahead and stay ahead.
Or this?
... I believe we have a continuing rendezvous with destiny. Each American and the country we cherish.

I’m running to make our economy work for you and for every American.

For the successful and the struggling.

For the innovators and inventors.

For those breaking barriers in technology and discovering cures for diseases.

For the factory workers and food servers who stand on their feet all day.

For the nurses who work the night shift.

For the truckers who drive for hours and the farmers who feed us.

For the veterans who served our country.

For the small business owners who took a risk.

For everyone who’s ever been knocked down, but refused to be knocked out.

I’m not running for some Americans, but for all Americans.
Oh, wait -- she did say all that, in her campaign kickoff speech last June.

Clinton's campaign has been too prose-y since then -- and, in some moments, worse than just prose-y:
Hillary Clinton’s older feminist supporters have a message for young women who are not backing her candidacy: Shame on you....

While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing the first female president.... she scolded any woman who felt otherwise.

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

... Gloria Steinem, one of the most famous spokeswomen of the feminist movement, took the sentiment a step further on Friday in an interview with the talk show host Bill Maher. Explaining how women tend to become more active in politics as they become older, she suggested younger women were just backing Mr. Sanders so that they could meet young men.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’” Ms. Steinem said.
But before that, there was an optimistic vision. There was some poetry. Clinton said exactly what Dowd insists she hasn't said. If Dowd had done a minimal level of due diligence before writing her column, she'd know that.


I share the widespread belief that Chris Christie wiped the floor with Marco Rubio last night -- and for that we may owe him a debt of gratitude. Rubio's struggles last night could be the "Oops" moment that will haunt him forever -- and so the guy who was potentially the strongest general election candidate of the three Republican front-runners might struggle in New Hampshire and fade. That's good news.

(And here's a bonus: If that does happen, and if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz goes on to lose the general election this fall, Chris Christie will be, in the eyes of many members of the Republican Establishment, the man who cost the GOP two straight presidential elections, the first one by cozying up to Barack Obama after Sandy, then this one by going after Rubio. Yes, I know that the polls all favored Obama even before Sandy, but a lot of Republicans still believe, erroneously, that Romney had it in the bag until Sandy hit. Will the Establishment hate Christie for this? Look at how angry the insiders have been at Jeb Bush for pounding on Rubio all this time, in a doomed effort to save his own campaign. Christie's campaign is almost certainly doomed as well, and now he might be blamed for tarnishing Golden Boy. Smooth move, Chris.)

Rubio's problem was the robotic repetition of a single talking point -- five times, as you can see in the clip at the end of this post, starting at 0:47. But what did Christie say to get Rubio wound up? What was his argument for himself and against Rubio? It was this:
“You see, everybody, I want the people at home to think about this,” he told the debate viewers. “This is what Washington, D.C., does. The drive-by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information, and then the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him. See, Marco, the thing is this: When you’re president of the United States, when you are a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is doesn’t solve one problem for one person. They expect you to plow the snow. They expect you to get the schools open. And when the worst natural disaster in your state’s history hits you, they expect you to rebuild their state, which is what I’ve done. None of that stuff happens on the floor of the United State Senate.”
Christie put everything into this. It was well delivered. It left Rubio so rattled he repeated a talking point.

But what was Christie saying here? He was saying that being required to deal with strictly domestic problems makes him more qualified to be president that a U.S. senator, even though senators deal with foreign as well as domestic policy. He was saying that getting the streets plowed is all the job experience a potential president needs.

How is that significantly different from what was widely deemed to be Scott Walker's big, possibly campaign-derailing gaffe a year ago?
In response to a question about how he would deal with global threats such as the one posed by ISIS, Walker drew from his personal experience.

"If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," Walker said on the CPAC stage, after giving a longer answer about how he would handle ISIS if he were the president.

... Walker has faced bipartisan criticism for the comment...
National Review called that "Scott Walker's awful answer on ISIS." An NBC reporter asked whether it was "the first major blunder of the presidential race." But now, coming from Christie, it's a devastating attack.

What Rubio should have done was to summarize the complexities of, say, the war in Syria -- ISIS and Assad and Putin and the Kurds and Turkey and so on -- and than asked Christie, "And you think what qualifies you to take this on is that you know how to get six inches of snow plowed in Bayonne?"

But Rubio stuck with his talking point:
“But I would add this,” he said. “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world...”
And then shortly afterward,
“Here’s the bottom line. This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not--”

“There it is!” Christie interjected. “There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

“That’s the reason why this campaign is so important,” Rubio protested. “Because I think this notion -- I think this is an important point. We have to understand what we’re going through here. We are not facing a president that doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows what he is doing.”
I don't understand why this was supposed to be effective at all, even said once. Rubio was being accused of having the same level of inexperience that Barack Obama had in 2008 -- an experience deficit that some Obama-haters think put this country in peril. Rubio countered by saying that Barack Obama wasn't an incapable naif, he was a highly capable nihilist deliberately and capably destroying America by design. Conclusion: And I'm just as qualified as the America-destroyer!

Really, Marco? That was your message? Vote for me because I'm just as qualified to be president as the guy we all think brought America to his knees?

In this context, Rubio shouldn't have even said that once.

Saturday, February 06, 2016


I keep telling you that if Marco Rubio gets the Republican presidential nomination he will absolutely win the general election, in large part because the mainstream media hates both Democratic candidates and will embrace Rubio as a likable fratboy-turned-dad, just the way the press embraced George W. Bush in 2000. (Remember, this year the Democrat won't really be able to run on peace and prosperity, which kept Gore in the race sixteen years ago.)

Still don't believe me? Read this, from Michael Barbaro and Jeremy Peters in The New York Times, and watch the Rubio-media love affair begin:
Marco Rubio Turns Toward the Personal on the Campaign Trail

... as the presidential campaign enters its most intense phase yet, Mr. Rubio’s cautious style has quietly but unmistakably evolved, shedding its impersonal rime and offering intimate -- and increasingly improvised -- glimpses into his childhood, his family and even his finances.

... When a mother described the toll of raising an autistic child, Mr. Rubio spoke for seven emotional minutes about watching the 2-year-old daughter of a family friend wrestle with the disorder. And when a libertarian asked him about the excesses of the criminal justice system, Mr. Rubio told the story of his own run-in with the police when he was 18.

As he reconstructed a loud night of beer drinking in a Miami park, Mr. Rubio stopped himself and smiled. “Please don’t tell my kids,” he asked his audience playfully.

... As voting neared in the Iowa caucuses last week, Mr. Rubio’s speeches about America at the brink and the perfidy of President Obama suddenly contained a disarming detail about his father: Mario Rubio was a Cuban native, and his English was so poor when he arrived in the United States, his son recalled, that he needed a cousin to write down a phonetic message for him to recite to potential employers: “I am looking for work.”
He's empathetic! He's a regular guy! He has a compelling backstory! Oh, and did we mention the time he made a voter cry? A Democratic-leaning voter?
Carol-Ann Fitzgerald, 58, who describes herself as “more Democratic than Republican,” said she teared up on Thursday afternoon when Mr. Rubio recalled his father’s trouble finding work when he immigrated from Cuba. It was, she said, the story of her own father, a French-speaking immigrant from Canada.

“That’s what hit home for me,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said.
Even Rubio's weaknesses are discussed only in the context of his perceived strengths:
But the newly personal and unguarded approach to campaigning is a recognition that the assets he has worked hardest to develop -- mastery of foreign policy, and a bruising critique of the Obama era -- are not enough by themselves to capture the hearts of voters. And that the ones he was born with -- a compelling family history and an innate charm -- will only grow more important as he appeals to broader sections of the electorate.

It is also a reminder that Mr. Rubio, for all his dexterity as a public speaker, did not start campaigning for president full time until December. He required time, advisers said, to become comfortable with the daily rhythms of interacting with and fielding questions from hundreds of voters from morning until night.
So if he's been stiff and robotic on the campaign trail in the past, it's because he was working so hard to develop a "mastery of foreign policy" and a "critique of the Obama era" that's "bruising" -- oh, and you can't blame him for being less than brilliant in the past, because he "did not start campaigning for president full time until December," and it's hard, darn it, to spend one's days selflessly "interacting with and fielding questions from hundreds of voters from morning until night." And yet we mustn't forget that "a compelling family history and an innate charm" were gifts "he was born with," nor must we overlook his innate "dexterity as a public speaker."

Wow, New York Times. When are you popping the question?

This dovetails with what we learn from Mickey Kaus, who loathes Rubio, after he attended a Rubio campaign event:
Was Rubio really as slick and insubstantial in this setting as John Edwards? Answer: No. He’s slicker. He’s slicker, in part, because he at least seems a bit spontaneous, ... with a slightly goofy, human quality....

When it comes to substance, Rubio draws on an inventory of well-prepared rhetorical modules, with just enough policy to sound sophisticated.... There’s a heavy emphasis on electability.... Tellingly, however, Rubio has added a Trump Module, where he alludes to anger at stagnant wages.

He’s got an immigration module too. It ... adopt[s] what seems to be an Enforcement First framework, in which “nothing” happens, amnesty-wise, until the border is “secure.” ... Rubio prefaces all this with a digression on ISIS, and how it’s changed the immigration debate: Because our top priority has to be to “keep ISIS out of this country.” ... the audience loves it. The ISIS digression gets the biggest applause of the day.

All of this is mildly terrifying. If Rubio’s a “robot,” as many have charged, he’s a sophisticated new model robot with simulated humanistic elements and a charm algorithm.
Bernie Sanders can be charming, but even though you may have seen him be charming, you "know" -- because the press always reduces him to this -- that he's just an angry, fist-shaking old crank. And you "know" that Hillary Clinton is just a shrill, braying harridan, because that's what you're always told, even though she can be charming, too.

By November, if he's the nominee, everyone will "know" that Marco Rubio is the most likable Republican in a generation, and that he's smart as a whip, and that he has an extraordinarily moving life story. I'm going to keep saying it: Be afraid.

Friday, February 05, 2016


Writing for, Howard Kurtz tells us he's appalled that one of the moderators for last night's Democratic debate on MSNBC was Rachel Maddow:
Rachel Maddow did a pretty good job in questioning Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at MSNBC’s Democratic debate last night.

But she shouldn’t have been on that stage as a moderator, sitting next to Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and moderator of “Meet the Press.”

... she is an unabashedly liberal commentator who rips the Republicans every night on her program. She should not have been put in that position.

... Imagine the reaction on the left if the Fox News moderators at a debate were Bret Baier and Sean Hannity, an unabashed conservative. The criticism of Fox for fielding such a team would have been intense.
Hunter at Daily Kos makes the obvious point:
Let's look at some of the moderators for the Republican debates so far. There's conservative commenter Hugh Hewitt (multiple times.) There's Neil Cavuto. There's "Hot Air" editor Mary Katherine Ham. Did I mention Hugh freakin' Hewitt?
Yes, Hugh Hewitt, author of, among other books, If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It.

Nope, nothing partisan there.

Ham has co-authored a book, too -- it's called End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun). That sounds kinda middle of the road, doesn't it?

And then -- as I noted last fall -- there was Gerard Baker, who was one of the moderators at the November 10 Republican debate on the Fox Business Network. Prior to the debate, Baker was best known in America for a 2008 Times of London column in which he mocked then-candidate Barack Obama as a Messiah, a column that went viral on the right:
He Ventured Forth To Bring Light To The World

And it came to pass, in the eight year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness. The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical White person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: "Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?"
This goes on for six minutes in the video version:

Also during the 2008, Baker wrote another column in which he compared Obama unfavorably to Sarah Palin:
Political Biography

Obama: A classic, if unusually talented, greasy-pole climber. Held a succession of jobs that constitute the standard route to the top in his party's internal politics: "community organizer", law professor, state senator.

Palin: A woman with a wide range of interests in a well-variegated life. Held a succession of jobs - sports journalist, commercial fisherwoman, state oil and gas commissioner, before entering local politics. A resume that suggests something other than burning political ambition from the cradle but rather the sort of experience that enables her to understand the concerns of most Americans....


Obama: A very attractive speaker whose celebrity has been compared to that of Britney Spears and who sends thrills up Chris Matthews' leg

Palin: A very attractive woman, much better-looking than Britney Spears who speaks rather well too. She sends thrills up the leg of Rush Limbaugh (and me).
And did I mention the chat he had with Hugh Hewitt after Palin's 2008 convention speech in which he said breathlessly, "I don't think I've seen an arrival, an emergence of someone like that on the international scene, you know, in twenty or thirty years. I thought it was just a remarkable performance"?

Gerard Baker and Hugh Hewitt React to Sarah Palin by FORAtv

I'm trying to recall any complaints from Howard Kurtz about the choice of Baker as a moderator. Nope, I don't remember any.


Alicia Keys is flirting with Paul Ryan, and no, I'm not being sexist. Watch the video below.
Alicia Keys has taken her passion for criminal justice reform, wrapped it up in a bow, sealed it with a kiss and sent it off to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan for Valentine's Day....

The singer has long been outspoken in calling on legislators to help end the mass incarceration of non-violent crime offenders....

In this video Valentine she made for, Keys addresses Ryan (by his first name, asking, "Can I call you Paul?") with a little sweet talk, saying, "I recently saw a picture of you working out and I was like, 'Mmm, I never saw the Speaker of the House working out before. He must be cool!'

"Are you cool, Paul?" she asks before daring him to "show me how cool you are. In fact you can even maybe be my Valentine if you help me spread some love."

The love she is referring to is a vote to reform "excessive incarceration" to "keep families together and reunite those that have been unjustly torn apart." She then shows off a Valentine's Day card that says "You have a heart of gold," and instructs viewers to go to where they can send their own Valentines to Ryan.
As Mic notes, Keyes is working with Van Jones on this:
In November, Keys' We Are Here movement announced a partnership with #cut50, a movement founded by former White House official Van Jones that seeks to cut the prison population in half. The two groups are collaborating on #JusticeReformNOW, a call to action for the public to apply pressure to members of Congress.
Keys and Jones are trying to do a very good thing, and this is a clever way to do it -- except for one problem: Ryan and other Republicans signed on to criminal justice reform in large part because they saw it as a delivery system for measures that would make it more difficult to prosecute corporate crime. The New York Times reported on this in November:
For more than a year, a rare coalition of liberal groups and libertarian-minded conservatives has joined the Obama administration in pushing for the most significant liberalization of America’s criminal justice laws since the beginning of the drug war. That effort has had perhaps no ally more important than Koch Industries....

Now, as Congress works to turn those goals into legislation, that joint effort is facing its most significant test -- over a House bill that Koch Industries says would make the criminal justice system fairer, but that the Justice Department says would make it significantly harder to prosecute corporate polluters, producers of tainted food and other white-collar criminals.

The tension among the unlikely allies emerged over the last week as the House Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support, approved a package of bills intended to simplify the criminal code and reduce unnecessarily severe sentences.

One of those bills -- which has been supported by Koch Industries, libertarians and business groups -- would make wholesale changes to certain federal criminal laws, requiring prosecutors to prove that suspects “knew, or had reason to believe, the conduct was unlawful,” and did not simply unknowingly violate the law.

Many laws already carry such a requirement -- known as “mens rea” -- but Congress left it out of many others, and libertarian groups say that has made it too easy to unknowingly violate obscure laws. Some environmentalists argue, however, that the real motive of Charles Koch, the philanthropist and the company chairman, in supporting the legislation is to block federal regulators from pursuing potential criminal actions against his family’s network of industrial and energy companies....
Or as Senator Elizabeth Warren noted in her recent report "Rigged Justice: 2016: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy":

Ryan and other corporatist Republicans -- but I repeat myself -- are willing to vote for the reforms Keys and Jones want. They just want to ensure that a big, fat gift for their billionaire owners is tucked into the legislation.

I think smart activists would acknowledge the nuances and demand a clean bill. But maybe Keys and Jones don't care. Maybe they think this is a worthwhile trade-off. The We Are here site is making a reasonable point here:
We only have a few months left to pass criminal justice reform under President Obama....
Right, because the bill President Rubio will sign into law will probably contain just the "mens rea" provision. So maybe the trade-off is worth it. But personally, I just can't accept that.


Jonathan Bernstein has a point about last night's debate:
The first hour of tonight's debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was full of fireworks.... But it was also, I'm fairly sure, the least policy-specific hour of a Democratic presidential debate ever.

Instead, the candidates debated ideology, party loyalty, the nature of power in a capitalist system, and other generalizations. They spent an inordinate time (egged on by the MSNBC moderators) discussing what counts toward being a "progressive"...

In other words, they sounded a lot like Republicans. I mean, without the sideshow.

... typical of that first half hour, however, was Sanders's blanket statement that " the business model of Wall Street is fraud." It's a great applause line, at least for the target audience, just as railing against "amnesty" is a great applause line in Republican debates....

Trouble is, none of the big talk gets done without someone who can write, pass and implement workable plans.
Okay, that last sentence is where I deviate somewhat from Bernstein. I think Bernie Sanders is entitled to argue that it's realistic to demand the impossible, even without a concrete plan to attain the impossible, because maybe you push the Overton window to the left, and what used to be seen as an unattainable progressive goal becomes at last partly attainable.

What concerns me about reducing even part of a Democratic debate to a purity test is that the time spent talking about purity isn't being used to define the candidates as what they are -- namely, well to the left of the extremely conservative Republicans. We'd see this if we looked at their policy positions, but we're spending a lot of time not looking at their policy positions, and looking instead at the abstract concept of purity. Yes, Sanders is further to the left than Clinton on most issues. But both Democrats are solidly on the left, while the Republicans are far to the right.

Take capital gains taxes. Yes, Bernie Sanders wants to tax capital gains as ordinary income, which would be a big increase in the tax, one that would fall largely on the wealthy; by contrast, Hillary Clinton would raise the capital gains tax only on profits made on assets held from one to two years (there's already a higher rate for gains on assets held for a year or less).

That's a much more modest increase -- but it's still an increase. CNBC's Larry Kudlow calls the plan "inconceivably stupid," which, if you're a liberal, ought to convince you that it's an excellent idea.

By contrast, here's what would happen to the capital gains tax if the guy a lot of people think has the inside track for the Republican nominations gets elected and has his way:
... the once-fringe idea of abolishing a capital-gains tax is going mainstream this year courtesy of Senator Marco Rubio....

His plan would impose no tax at all on interest, dividends or capital gain income from stocks. It would also set a maximum tax rate of 25 percent on business income, both for large corporations and small ones. In many cases, that would mean business owners would pay a lower tax rate on profits than their employees would pay on their wages -- even after counting both taxes paid by the business and those paid by the business owner directly.
This is why it infuriates me to get mired in these purity wars. Obviously Sanders is much more progressive than Clinton. But just as obviously, either of them would be immensely preferable to the radically right-wing Republicans. If the specifics aren't discussed, voters don't see that. They just see a binary debate: progressive or not progressive, with "not progressive" coming to be perceived as indistinguishable from "conservative."

Let's get back to talking about specifics. Otherwise we risk demotivating the Democratic base in the (still likely) event that Hillary Clinton is the nominee.

Thursday, February 04, 2016


I just spotted this at Free Republic:
[Twitter Report] Breitbart Sitting on Anti-Cruz Story till After NH Vote

Two days ago Breitbart's Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari ... began teasing an "Explosive" Cruz scandal that was supposed to post imminently on

According to Allum Bokhari, it would reveal the 'true face' of Ted Cruz and would be "much worse" than the Ben Carson-fraud fiasco currently ongoing. When asked if it would destroy the Cruz campaign, Allum replied he "couldn't say for sure." When asked about the initial delay, he replied that Breitbart is being very careful with the information due to its seriousness, but that the "wait was worth it."

At first I thought maybe Allum and Milo were simply trolling their readership due to the silence for more than 24 hours, but it appears the article really is coming and is indeed quite serious. According to Allum the article was held up in editorial....
A couple of tweets from Bokhari:

Sex scandal? Money scandal? What's it going to be? Or is it nothing? (It's not the voicemails proving that the Cruz campaign was spreading the story that Ben Carson had dropped out of the race at the Iowa caucuses -- that story is already up at Breitbart, from a different author.)

I actually hope this is a nothingburger, or that we're being trolled. When I see that Donald Trump is rejecting sensible recommendations from staffers that he beef up his ground game, and when I see Marco Rubio making big gains in national and New Hampshire polls, I assume that Trump's going to underperform everywhere and Cruz is the only person standing in the way of Rubio (who's getting Rush Limbaugh's imprimatur, which might make him acceptable to the crazies, even as the mainstream media is persuading middle-of-the-road voters all over America that he's a moderate). On the other hand, I don't like Ted Cruz -- who does, really? -- and his downfall would be fun to watch.

Waiting with bated breath....


In The New York Times, Michael Barbaro and Jonathan Martin tell us about Chris Christie's efforts to slow Marco Rubio's ascent in the polls. What Christie's doing seems really incompetent:
Over the past 48 hours, Mr. Christie has mocked Mr. Rubio as a cosseted “boy in the bubble,” derided him as “constantly scripted,” likened him to “the king of England,” and, perhaps most creatively, compared his Senate career to that of a helpless fourth grader who is told which chair to sit in at school.
It's pointless to call Rubio the “boy in the bubble” or say he's “constantly scripted.” Why? Because these aren't critiques of Rubio as a potential president -- they're critiques of Rubio's campaigning style. They're of professional interest to Christie as a fellow pol. They're not of interest to voters. And Christie has more where that came from:
During [a] news conference, Christie called Rubio “the master of the drive-by town hall” for meetings that run shorter in length compared to Christie's typical two-hour-long town hall and quipped that “every day is Groundhog Day for the Rubio campaign," with Rubio sticking to scripted remarks.
How Rubio campaigns matters a lot to Chris Christie. It doesn't mean jack to the average New Hampshire voter. I'm not saying that voters are laser-focused on issues -- yes, they're easily swayed by rhetorical flourishes and campaign gimmicks. But they don't care that the guy has a stump speech and repeats it from one town to another. They're not hearing it at every diner every day. As an attack line, this is too meta. It's a campaign critique about campaigning, not about whether Rubio would be a good president.

And what about that comparison of Rubio to a fourth grader? Barbaro and Martin elaborate:
At Londonderry High School, he found a fourth-grader named Matthew in the audience and posed a series of questions to him about his daily routine.

Did he have a set time when he had to be at school? Yes, the boy said.

An assigned desk to sit in? The boy nodded.

A list of questions to answer each day -- and a summer break? Matthew answered affirmatively.

Mr. Christie pounced: “They do that in the United States Senate, too!” The audience roared.

The Senate, he said, was a foolhardy place from which to pick a president.

“What we are all wondering is: How does that train you to be president?” Mr. Christie said.
That's Christie's line of attack, Chris? That we should never elect a president who's a U.S. senator? Forget the fact that the current president was a senator -- I'm sure that doesn't impress GOP voters in New Hampshire. But JFK was a senator -- and yes, these are Republican voters, but this is still New England, Chris. In two of the last three contest primaries in New Hampshire, Republican voters picked John McCain -- a senator.

Elsewhere in the Times, Barbaro tells us that Christie is attacking Rubio on abortion -- inaccurately.
“He’s made it very clear that -- on the issue of pro-life, Marco Rubio is not for an exception for rape, incest or life of the mother,” Mr. Christie said. “Now, you know, I think that’s the kind of position that New Hampshire voters would be really concerned about.”

... contrary to Mr. Christie’s claim, [Rubio] does support an exception for cases in which a mother’s life is in danger.

“I think there needs to be an exception for the life of the mother,” Mr. Rubio said in Iowa last week.

Mr. Rubio did not, however, mention exceptions in the case of rape or incest. “I want to see abortions in America reduced,” he said.

During a Republican candidate debate in August, Mr. Rubio declared that he had never supported exceptions that would allow for abortions if conception occurred from rape or incest.

But Mr. Rubio has suggested in the past that his opposition to abortion is total. “I believe a human being is entitled to life, irrespective of the circumstances in which that human being was conceived and so forth,” Mr. Rubio told Glenn Beck during a radio interview in August 2015.
First of all, nailing down Rubio's position on this is like nailing Jell-O to a wall -- he's deliberately evasive. But beyond that, Christie does realize that states other than New Hampshire will have primaries in the future, right? Including states where voters really like candidates who are very, very anti-abortion? Is Christie sure he wants to win the Republican primaries?

Even Christie's main critique of Rubio is weak:
On Wednesday, Mr. Christie challenged anyone “to show me the significant accomplishment that Senator Rubio has done while he’s in the United States Senate.”

“I can’t find one,” Mr. Christie added.
Barack Obama had a thin record in 2008. He won. George W. Bush had a thin record in 2000. He won, or at least got close enough to win on a technicality. Bill Clinton was seen as less experienced than George H.W. Bush. Reagan was a movie actor for most of his adult life. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer and one-term governor. To American voters, experience doesn't matter very much. (I'm ignoring Christie's assumption that he has an unquestionably impressive record of accomplishment.)

Oh, and as Barbaro and Martin note, Christie is launching these attacks as part of a joint venture:
... Mr. Christie has a secret ally: Jeb Bush.

... Members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt Mr. Rubio’s rise in the polls, according to Republican operatives familiar with the conversations.

... A division of labor seems to have taken hold. While a well-financed “super PAC” supporting Mr. Bush assails Mr. Rubio on television and in the mail (it will release a new batch of ads on Thursday), Mr. Christie has stepped up the critiques on the campaign trail.

“Jeb can’t do that sort of stuff,” said an adviser to Mr. Christie, referring to the New Jersey governor’s slashing “boy in the bubble” attack on Mr. Rubio and his comfort with political street fighting. “They don’t have the weapon.”
“Jeb can’t do that sort of stuff.” Savor that. Vote Jeb -- he's too much of a weakling to attack his opponents personally, but he will find goons to do the attacking for him.

What does that remind me of? Oh, yes:


I assume you've been following this story:
Dr. Ben Carson, once a presidential contender leading the GOP polls, found himself swatting away rumors that he planned to drop out of the race in the heat of the Iowa caucuses Monday night.

The rumor was sourced to a single CNN report about Carson's plans to travel home to Florida after the Iowa caucuses -- rather than directly to New Hampshire, as is typical – and was spread by Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) campaign. It sparked a full-blown scandal as Carson claimed the Cruz camp's tactics hurt his performance in the caucuses and second-place finisher Donald Trump took up Carson's cause, calling for the election results to thrown out completely over Cruz's "fraud."
Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post Dispatch notes that this and other eyebrow-raising Cruz tactics are being ascribed to Jeff Roe, a Kansas City political consultant who's managing Cruz's campaign, and who has a reputation for ruthlessness:
“Read up on Jeff Roe,” warned Twitter denizen @Elizabeth_Calo, who identifies herself as a Kansas State University alum. “That man makes [Karl] Rove and [Lee] Atwater look like Girl Scouts.”

... Others echoed an allegation by the Ben Carson campaign, denied by Cruz’s camp, that the Cruz campaign started a rumor late Monday that Carson was dropping out of the race.

For years, Roe has been known in Missouri political circles as a take-no-prisoners strategist whose tactics, generally on behalf of conservative Republicans, are as questionable as they are effective. Most notably, a Post-Dispatch investigation revealed he was behind a vicious, name-calling radio ad against Republican Missouri GOP candidate for governor Tom Schweich -- an ad that infuriated Schweich and which preceded his February 2015 suicide.

... In addition to the Carson allegation, Cruz’s office put out a pre-caucus mailer that has drawn fire as being deceptive.

The mailer, made to look like an official state document, warns the recipient of a “voting violation” and gives the recipient a “score” for past voting turnout. The mailer, meant to draw those voters to the polls, drew a rebuke from Iowa’s secretary of state and other candidates.
Regarding that rumor of Carson's withdrawal, a poster at Free Republic directs our attention to this 2010 Missourinet story about an earlier race in which Roe was involved:
Southwest Missouri Congressional candidate Scott Eckersley blames the campaign staff of his Republican opponent for issuing a hoax that he had suspended his campaign.

An e-mail sent to news media outlets and a “tweet” issued by a fake Twitter account announced that Eckersley had suspended his campaign due to personal reasons.

Eckersley blames his opponent, Republican Billy Long, for sending out the hoax days before the election.

“You know this is dirty politics. This is Jeff Roe-style management. That’s who Billy’s retained. That’s who he writes the big checks to,” Eckersley tells Missourinet affiliate KTTS. “This is Kansas City management doing what they do best, which is playing dirty.”
(Emphasis added.)


As we learn from a recent New Republic story about Roe ("Ted Cruz's Howitzer"), he's capable of much worse:
One morning in the fall of 2006, Sara Jo Shettles, a Democratic nominee for Congress from just northeast of Kansas City, was out on a campaign trip with her adult son. From the other side of their motel room, Shettles’s son yelled for his mom to come look at what was on the TV. “I looked up and there I was: the worst possible picture of me in the world with a big ‘XXX’ over my head in bright letters,” she recently recalled. The 63-year-old, wheelchair-bound Shettles, a longtime Democratic activist, was running against Sam Graves -- and, by extension, Jeff Roe....

Years before, Shettles had worked for General Media Inc., selling ads for the science magazine Omni and a few other trade mags. Roe seized on the fact that General Media’s flagship title was none other than Penthouse. That was more than enough for him to cut the defining ad of the race. His triple-X attack ad accused Shettles of peddling “smut” and effectively made her out to be a pornographer. Shettles defended herself by saying she was hired by Omni, paid by Omni, and never sold ads directly for Penthouse. (She told me recently that she handled contracts that also included ads for Penthouse.) Roe wasn’t buying it. “She worked for scum,” he told the Kansas City Star at the time.

Shettles had challenged Graves to a debate during the campaign. Not long after the triple-X ad aired, she returned to her campaign office to find a voice mail message from Roe:
[Roe hums a melody] Hi, this is Jeff Roe calling from Penthouse -- I mean, uh, Graves for Congress. Call me when you can. I’m interested in your debate memo. I know you’re waiting on a sponsor for a media host. So, gimme a call when you get a chance. 407-NAUGHTY-GIRLS -- I mean, 1222. Gimme a call when you can. Thanks. Bye.

... Graves beat Shettles with 62 percent of the vote.
Oh, and there's this from 2008 -- the attack ad that, according to The New Republic, "put Roe on the map" (an attack that echoes Cruz's current references to Donald Trump's "New York values"):

So if Cruz continues to win, this campaign is going to get a whole lot uglier.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


(Edited for accuracy.)

A number of you think I worry about the 2016 presidential election for no good reason. Democrats have won the popular vote in four of the last five elections! Young people are far more Democratic than Republican! Non-whites lean Democratic and make up an ever-larger portion of the electorate! So why shouldn't we expect this year's Democratic nominee to win at least every state Barack Obama won four years ago, and possibly more?

This is why:
Red States Outnumber Blue for First Time in Gallup Tracking

Gallup's analysis of political party affiliation at the state level in 2015 finds that 20 states are solidly Republican or leaning Republican, compared with 14 solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic states. The remaining 16 are competitive. This is the first time in Gallup's eight years of tracking partisanship by state that there have been more Republican than Democratic states.
Now, Gallup has tracked this only since 2008 -- a time when America was disgusted by Republican rule. So a decline in the number of Democratic states was inevitable. But there's been an 8-state swing in one year. That's not good.

Here's the map now:

Here was the map four years ago:

Optimists say, Which states could the Republicans possibly win in 2016 that they lost four years ago? Well, look at the two maps. Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania were all either solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic in 2012; now they're all competitive.

Combined, those threestates have a total of 46 electoral votes. If this year's Republican presidential candidate wins all the Romney states -- Romney won 206 electoral votes -- plus those three states, that's a nailbiter of a race: the GOP has 252, with 270 needed to win. And other "competitive" states include several states won by Barack Obama where Republicans have done extremely well in senatorial and/or gubernatorial elections in recent years: Wisconsin (10 electoral votes), Ohio (18), Iowa (6), Florida (29).

I'm not saying a GOP victory is inevitably going to happen. I'm saying it would be foolish to assume it can't happen. Yes, there could be another Democratic victory in November. But it's far from inevitable.


Steve Benen is right -- Donald Trump did very well on Monday, and we seem to be pretending he didn't.
... while I’m usually not sympathetic to Trump’s arguments, it’s worth kicking around a contrarian idea: maybe he did pretty well in the Iowa caucuses?

Consider the race in a slightly different light: Donald Trump is a first-time candidate who’s never run for any public office at any time in his life. He was appealing to conservative voters in a state he’d never visited, and which he’d publicly insulted -- on camera -- more than once. He was reaching out to a GOP base in Iowa that’s dominated by evangelicals, whom he’s struggled to relate to on any level.

Trump spent very little money in the state, had no meaningful ground operation or field team, held far fewer events than other competitive candidates, and invested almost no time in the kind of one-on-one retail campaigning than Iowans have come to expect.

It’s against this backdrop that Trump came in second anyway, earning more support than the man the media has declared The World’s Greatest Presidential Candidate.

Indeed, Michelle Goldberg noted in Slate yesterday, Trump also received “more votes than either of the last two winners of the Iowa Caucuses: 45,416, compared to 29,839 for Rick Santorum in 2012 and 40,841 for Mike Huckabee in 2008.” Trump also won more votes than George W. Bush received in 2000, when the then-Texas governor won the Iowa caucuses.

Yes, Trump obviously lost, and his whining on Twitter yesterday didn’t do him any favors. But looking at the Iowa results from a distance, is it crazy to think his second-place finish was actually quite impressive?
Why does this matter? Because if Trump does struggle in subsequent contests -- especially if the eventual nominee is aforementioned World’s Greatest Presidential Candidate, Marco Rubio -- he'll be discussed in retroactive accounts of this race as if he was no more of a contender than Herman Cain or Rudy Giuliani, a guy who led the polls for a while but didn't really have any genuine support. The message will be: Republican voters aren't crazy! You were told all through the second half of 2015 that Republican voters were crazy, but that was just media hype. Republican voters are sane and rational!

No, they aren't. Trump finished a strong second with a woefully inadequate campaign apparatus. If he'd had a ground game, he could have won. If he'd had a ground game and made maybe one fewer mistake in the last week (skipping the debate? putting money on the communion plate?), he would have won. Lots of Republicans backed him in Iowa. Lots of Republicans still back him.

He may prove that in New Hampshire. He's still drawing crowds:

And while Public Policy Polling suggests that his national support is dropping, a UMass-Lowell poll says he's still going great guns in the Granite State:

Maybe he doesn't have the organization to translate any of this into votes. But that doesn't mean GOP voters were too rational to respond to his bluster and bigotry. They responded like crazy. That mustn't be forgotten.


I believe Marco Rubio would be a very strong general-election candidate, so I eagerly turned to David Frum's Atlantic post "Marco Rubio's Difficult Path to the Nomination," in the hope that Frum would point out obstacles in Rubio's way that I haven't spotted. Color me unpersuaded:
First, Rubio must perform strongly in New Hampshire next week. Even more importantly, all the other candidates you used to like must perform poorly. If, hypothetically, John Kasich or Chris Christie rather than Marco Rubio finishes a strong second to Donald Trump, Rubio’s future as the Great Establishment Hope would suddenly look a lot less hopeful.
Well, that might happen -- moderate and pro-Estalishment voters in New Hampshire might choose the candidate they like best, Kasich or Christie or, God help us, Jeb, rather than the other guy they like who just so happens to be getting all the buzz as they're preparing to vote. New Hampshirites do have a reputation for -- what's the cliche? -- flinty independence. But this, from a Concord Monitor story, makes more sense:
Some say Rubio’s third-place caucus finish could give him a boost among moderate Republican voters here who don’t want Trump or Cruz, and see the Florida senator as the party’s best chance to defeat them.

Those voters “have an incentive to pick the strongest horse,” said Dartmouth College professor of government Brendan Nyhan. “To the extent Rubio can peel people off of those other candidates, it could produce a swing in his traction."
Reputation aside, New Hampshirites tend to go with safe choices -- Romney, McCain, Bush. So what else does David Frum have?
Then, in the days after New Hampshire votes, all the other candidates you used to like must rapidly withdraw gracefully from the field. No more calling Rubio “the boy in the bubble!” Jeb Bush’s people, in particular must somehow stifle their resentment and rage, and refrain from spending their remaining $50 million of super-PAC funds to remind South Carolina voters of Rubio’s past (and likely future) support for higher levels of immigration.
Obviously, Establishment candidates who finish strong in New Hampshire will want to stay in the race, even if most (cough Kasich cough) don't have much appeal in any other state. But I think most of these folks will drop out if they do poorly in New Hampshire. The only one who might be insane enough to stay in the race after a New Hampshire flop would be Jeb, ostensibly because he'll still have the Florida primary to look forward to, but really because he's run his entire race as if his parents are going to beat the crap out of him if he drops out.

But so what? Outside New Hampshire, everyone in the GOP hates Jeb. Being attacked by Jeb probably helps Rubio.

What else, David?
Next, in a year when the Republican base is seething against Republican leadership, you must find some way to convince those voters that the tens of millions in campaign donations and super-PAC dollars about to flow to Rubio don’t mark him out as the new “establishment man,” even though, of course, it’s true.
The "anti-Establishment" guy who won Iowa is awash in billionaire super PAC cash. His wife works for Goldman Sachs. Nobody in the GOP electorate cares.

What else?
You must also somehow persuade Donald Trump to exit the race quietly, rather than smash all the scenery on his way off the stage. Every time he attacks Rubio (and you!) for planning to leave Obamacare beneficiaries dying in the streets, he’s providing material for devastating Hillary Clinton attack ads in the fall. Somebody has to cajole and coax Trump into feeling that the real winners are those who know when to quit.
See, I think having Trump remain in the race helps rather than hurts Rubio. If we get down to a three-man race, Trump and Cruz will be splitting the anti-Establishment vote while Rubio scoops up the rest. And even if you assume that Trump would attack Rubio as a heartless opponent of universal health care (why would he say that?), that won't hurt in the fall. People want health care, but Obamacare is unloved. There's still no penalty for running against it except in deep-blue America.

Oh, and as for Trump himself, he really might be melting like the Wicked Witch of the West after a water splash. This just went up on Twitter:

Because I want the GOP nominee to be an embodiment of the party's rage, I hope Cruz and not Rubio is the beneficiary of any Trump slippage. But I won't be surprised if the voters, after falling in love with Trump, are falling in line for Rubio.

And finally, David?
Finally, you’re going to need a plan for Rubio himself. He’s convinced you that he’s a candidate of deep foreign-policy wisdom. That self-presentation may be tough to sustain in a general-election race against Hillary Clinton, especially when she pounds home the message that a vote for Rubio is a vote for more wars in the Middle East and millions of health-insurance cancellations at home. What’s he going to say in reply? Personal biography only goes so far in presidential politics, otherwise Bob Dole and John McCain would have completed two terms each.
Oh, please. This is America. Dole and McCain didn't lose because Americans don't vote based on biography -- they lost because they were old and familiar and dour, and we like new and fresh and upbeat, or at least new to us.

Rubio won't need to talk policy in detail -- he'll just do that tremulous high-school-valedictorian thing he does with his voice and say ISIS is an "existential threat," then say, "For eight years, this president has refused to protect America, but when I am president, I will!" And only Democratic voters care about insurance cancellations -- poor and struggling whites assume it's because the non-whites get all the good benefits, so they blame Democrats.

I'm not saying that all of this will happen. But if Rubio gets a few breaks, it's going to be a lot easier for him to win than Frum believes.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


We all know that mainstream-media campaign reporters will retransmit seemingly any spin fed to them by a candidate's staff, without subjecting it to any sort of smell test. But there must be some limit to trail journalists' accommodating nature, right? Let's talk about Jeb Bush. He just spent $14.9 million campaigning in Iowa, only to finish in sixth place, 25 percentage points behind the front-runner, Ted Cruz. MSNBC says he spent $2,884 for every vote he received. There can't still be a reporter willing to paraphrase and publish happy horsepuckey from the Jeb campaign after that kind of blowout -- can there?

Yes, there can. Check out this story from Candace Smith of ABC News:
Jeb Bush and the Perils of High Expectations
This is just the headline, and already we're being spun. Jeb didn't get blown out -- he just failed to meet unreasonably optimistic expectations!
It was just four months ago when Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said he thought he would win the Iowa Republican caucuses.

That, obviously, did not happen.

Bush, according to Associated Press results, collected less than 3 percent of the vote. Although he beat the other governors in the race, his main rivals, he still placed far behind former protégé Marco Rubio, who finished a strong third.
Did you catch that? He lost. He lost badly. He lost to his ex-protégé Rubio. But he beat the other governors in the race. So, really, he kinda-sorta won!
In a memo Bush’s top advisers sent this morning to supporters and prominent donors, which was obtained by ABC News after first being reported by Politico, the campaign downplayed the Iowa caucuses because the winners rarely go on to win the nomination.
Jeb didn't want to win Iowa's stinky old caucuses anyway! They're for losers!
"The Jeb 2016 campaign has never made Iowa a centerpiece to winning the nomination. We have long viewed Iowa as just one of 56 contests,” it reads, adding, “The Granite State [of New Hampshire] has a much better track record in selecting the Republican nominee.”
In New Hampshire, Jeb's currently in fourth place, 23 1/2 points behind the leader -- but anything could happen, right?
His poor finish was not wholly unexpected. Advisers and supporters have long known that Bush would not be among the top four in the state. “We finished roughly where I thought we would,” one Florida-based donor told ABC News.
Pay no attention to those predictions of a Jeb Bush victory by ... um, Jeb Bush! (See above, paragraph #1.) We always totally knew he was going to lose! Maybe he always wanted to lose! Maybe he thinks losing is better than winning!

Okay, this is where the article engages with reality -- but only to set up more spin. Here's the reality:
The memo also says Bush’s time in the state was scaled back and that a strategic decision was made in November to shift resources away from Iowa.

That’s not entirely true, however. The campaign did cancel its Iowa TV ad buy to shift money toward staffing on the ground.

But between Bush’s campaign and Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting him, in terms of advertising, they have spent over $2,800 per voter, according to data from Morning Consult, a digital politics and policy outlet.

And the campaign announced in December it was boosting its paid staff in the state to over 20 from 11.
And now here's the spin:
Indeed, Bush has not neglected Iowa outright, as some of his donors would have liked....
So this was merely a strategic error. Sure, he lost Iowa, but he should have blown it off and suffered an even bigger loss, after which he could say to the other candidates, "Screw you guys -- I let you win!"
... Now, the campaign is urging its supporters to pivot to New Hampshire, where Bush has spent substantially more time.

“The real race for the nomination begins on February 9th in New Hampshire. It will set the race going forward and today, Jeb Bush is in a very strong position in the state,” according to the campaign memo.
So Iowa doesn't count at all. Now do you understand why Jeb didn't bother to win there?
Bush, as a Bush, is plagued by the prominence of his family. His Achilles heel may not be the expectations he sets for himself but the expectations of others.
Poor Jeb! How he must suffer having the best-known name in Republican politics! What a difficult burden that is!
When he entered the race, he entered as the presumptive nominee, the guy to beat, a mantle perhaps too heavy for the former Florida governor.

In December, he told CBS News’ John Dickerson that he was happy to not be the front-runner.

"I feel much better back here,” he said.
Jeb didn't fail. We failed Jeb by insisting on making him the presumptive nominee! He was willing to do anything to escape that -- even lose! Can you blame him?
... Now, in the Granite State, the time is ripe for a comeback. If Bush can do well in New Hampshire, he may be able to garner momentum into South Carolina, a state in which his father and brother have won each of their primaries. Bush has a full schedule in New Hampshire, with eight events between Tuesday and Thursday.

Monday night, Bush left Iowa before results were announced to be in place at a town hall in Manchester. “The reset has started as of tonight,” Bush said. “Next Tuesday, we’re going to surprise the world.”
No, seriously, it's totally going to happen from here on out -- you just wait!

Why do news organizations even bother to pay campaign reporters? Wouldn't it be much easier and more profitable to fire reporters like Candace Taylor and let the campaigns write up this sort of propaganda themselves, then pay to have it published? As a news consumer, would you really be able to tell the difference?


Yes, the racist ignoramus lost last night, and the Canadian demagogue won, but Marco Rubio exceeded expectations, therefore much of the press is treating him as last night's real winner. (Politico: "Rubio Off to New Hampshire with Wind at His Back.") David Brooks has been predicting a Rubio nomination, so he's unusually smug today, not so much on his own behalf as on behalf of his party:
What happened in Iowa was that some version of normalcy returned to the G.O.P. race. The precedents of history have not been rendered irrelevant.

Ted Cruz picked up the voters who propelled Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee to victory in previous caucuses. His is a Tea Party wing in the G.O.P. But its size and geographic reach is limited.

The amazing surge for Marco Rubio shows that the Republican electorate has not gone collectively insane. At the last moment, and in a state that is not naturally friendly to him, a lot of Republicans showed up to support a conservative who could conceivably get elected and govern.
Yes, but a lot more Republicans showed up to support an unabashed extremist and two unqualified know-nothings, one of whom is a thug and a bigot. Rubio's vote total? 23.1%. Combined vote totals of Cruz, Trump, and Carson? 61.3%.

Trump got 24.3% of the vote and 7 delegates last night; four years ago, Mitt Romney's vote percentage in Iowa was barely higher (24.53%), in a much smaller field, and he won one fewer delegate than Trump. And Cruz outdid both Trump this year and Romney in 2012.

But the Establishment is declaring victory, and the Establishment really might be able to will Rubio momentum into being, because there do seem to be a certain number of Republicans who want an electable choice -- maybe just enough in a three-way race. Perhaps the candidate who'll win this nomination while not being the choice of anything close to a GOP majority will be Rubio, not Trump.

Am I sorry the ignorant bigot lost? Yes, I am. Even though Trump has created a particularly toxic strain of Republicanism, he poses a threat to the Republican Establishment -- he tarnishes the GOP brand by saying out loud what other Republicans say in code, and while his agenda may overlap with that of the GOP's power brokers on many issues, he wouldn't just take an ALEC or Grover Norquist agenda off the shelf and run on it, much less govern by it. I think a Trump presidency would be a nightmare, but it would be a singularly Trumpian nightmare -- it wouldn't be a tactical advance in the long war being fought by the Koch brothers and their allies. And we might never get to that point, because Trump would be a weak general election candidate, at a time when the Democrats are going to have a weak candidate of their own. (If Marco Rubio is the nominee, he will win. Take that to the bank.)

We seemed to be on the verge of a Republican crack-up. Instead, last night we got a better-than-expected performance by someone who might be able to keep the party patched together. I hope someone -- Trump, Kasich ... hell, even Jeb -- humiliates Rubio in New Hampshire next week. If not, I hope Trump and Cruz cleans his clock in South Carolina. He's dangerous.

Monday, February 01, 2016


The Hill reports that there was much hand-wringing about Donald Trump at the Koch brothers' winter retreat this past weekend. Anti-Trump strategies were discussed:
On the eve of the Iowa causes, Koch network officials revealed in a private meeting with donors that they had commissioned focus group research to identify Trump’s vulnerabilities.

... [A] senior Koch official ... shared for the first time focus group research the network had commissioned showing that Trump’s popularity falls when voters are shown how working people have suffered as a result of his bankruptcies and business dealings in Atlantic City. Stories of ordinary people's livelihoods being harmed as Trump tried to enrich himself at their expense are most effective in "moving the needle" against Trump, donors were told.
So the assembled Kochites were told over the weekend that they should go forward and attack Trump as a guy who's cruel to ordinary people. And when the Kochs say "Jump," apparently National Review says "How high?" Here's the lead story at NR right now:

From the story:
... how many Americans are aware of the grimy details of Trump’s famously #winning record?

And how many know that Donald J. Trump’s vaunted “business” career is marked less by innovative, hard-charging business acumen, and more by good old-fashioned bullying? As one might expect, Trump claims to represent the interests of the blue-collar citizenry of this country. But his business record reveals a man with a penchant for persecuting the little man -- or even the little old lady....
Call it "bespoke journalism": The Kochs ordered it and NR customed-tailored the story just to their specifications. Now, that's great service.


Hillary Clinton's people are telling Politico's Glenn Thrush that they're gearing up for a general election battle against Donald Trump:
After months of laughing off Trump -- and assuming his ascent would propel the Republican Party to a 1964-style wipeout -- her campaign and its allies have begun to steer time and resources into framing lines of attack against the blustery billionaire....

“There’s plenty of material out there,” said longtime Clinton confidant James Carville. “We just have to figure it all out.”
But is this the right approach?
The emerging approach to defining Trump is an updated iteration of the “Bain Strategy” -- the Obama 2012 campaign’s devastating attacks on Mitt Romney’s dealings with investment firm Bain Capital, according to a dozen Democratic operatives and campaign aides familiar with the accelerating planning inside Clinton’s orbit. This time, Democrats would highlight the impact of Trump’s four business bankruptcies -- and his opposition to wage hikes at his casinos and residential properties -- on the families of his workers.

One Obama ally who helped frame the 2012 Bain strategy added another line of likely attack: “He’s a landlord. Everybody f---ing hates their landlord.”
But does everybody hate their landlord? Aren't quite a few ordinary people in America, including some who aren't even close to being rich, landlords and landladies themselves? Maybe they rent out one room, which allows them to barely scrape by, and they know what it's like to have a conflict with a tenant, so they might identify with Trump, even if they learn that his treatment of tenants was awful?

In general this year, don't some people seem to think that being an SOB as a landlord might be a sign that you're the kind of tough guy we need now as president?

I agree with this unnamed person quoted by Thrush:
Not everyone agrees that Bain-style attacks will dent Trump: One former Obama campaign and White House adviser said that Romney was wounded by the attacks on his business practices because it contradicted his compassionate-conservative pitch to swing voters. “We nailed it because it nailed Mitt on his motivation: He wasn’t this nice guy he claimed to be,” the former staffer said. “Trump never claimed to be nice. ... "
Greg Sargent has a point:
... I’m hoping that Dems take more seriously the notion that Trump might be tapping into something very real with the larger argument he is making about our political system....

As I’ve tried to argue, Trump is basically vowing to break the political system over his knee and get it working again. He is not claiming that “government is the problem.” Rather, he’s arguing that the stupid fools running the government are the problem, and that the bought-and-paid-for politicians and corrupt bureaucrats are the problem, because they are basically cheating you -- they are not trying to make America work for you; instead they are making it work for the illegals and the major corporations and China.
And this does pose a threat to Democrats. Working America, an afilliate of the AFL-CIO, recently sent canvassers to working-class white neighborhoods outside Cleveland and Pittsburgh and found quite a bit of support for Trump -- support that wasn't limited to Republicans:
* Donald Trump was favored by more than a third of those who chose a candidate (38%), overwhelming all other Republican candidates (27% combined). Nearly the same number chose one of two Democratic candidates, Clinton (22%) or Sanders (12%).

* While most of Trump’s support comes from the staunch Republican base, 1 in 4 Democrats who chose a candidate showed a preference for Trump.

... So, what do people like about Trump? When it came down to a question of personality vs. policy, Trump’s attitude was the dominant factor. Nearly half of voters who identified themselves as supporters volunteered that they like him because “he speaks his mind.” Four times as many voters responded that way than “I agree with his policies.”

The #2 answer? They like Trump because he's "tough/angry." I don't see anything on this chart that talks about empathy.

So I suspect that a lot of people who are seriously thinking about backing Trump in November aren't going to be dissuaded by the "nasty landlord" line of attack. But Hillary's people are also mentioning Trump's multiple bankruptcies. Martin Longman (BooMan) sees Trump's business failings as a ripe target:
Donald Trump really has gone into bankruptcy four separate times. His casino empire really did completely implode in massive, epic failure....

And let’s not forget that Trump University was a complete fraud and a failure, that Trump Airlines was an idiotic idea that went bust, that no one (except a couple of Israelis) wanted to drink Trump Vodka, or eat Trump Steaks.

If you haven’t read about the complete failure of Trump’s Taj Mahal and his reliance on junk bonds (after promising the New Jersey legislature that he would never use them), you really should get on that. And then send a link to all your crazy Trump-supporting friends and family in your Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The Working America report suggests that this and other aspects of Trump's business career (and pro-business policies) might disillusion voters:
An Ohioan who said his biggest issue was the economy and that he liked Trump’s business experience was less enthused when he considered Trump’s bankruptcies and his tax plan that favors the wealthy and corporations.

A voter for whom immigration was the paramount issue was uneasy when he considered Trump’s use of undocumented workers on some of his own development projects.
BooMan suggests bringing up the fact that Trump is probably worth only $2.9 billion, not $10 billion as he claims. I don't think that will work -- to someone living paycheck to paycheck, $2.9 billion is an unfathomably large amount of money. But yes, bring up the casino failure and the airline failure and the for-profit pseudo-university failure. Although none of this has made a dent in Trump's support among Republicans, it might work with the rest of the electorate.

In general, I'd just show Trump being made a fool of. The famous clip in which David Letterman chats Trump up about his ties and then embarrasses him by noting that they're made in China probably belongs in a general election ad because it reveals Trump as a hypocrite and because it reveals him as a paper tiger:

Trump doesn't always win. Trump doesn't always get the last word. Trump doesn't always vanquish foreign foes (or even try to). Trump isn't the tough guy he claims to be. You want to beat him? Find any footage, from his business career or elsewhere, that makes him look ineffectual or weak.

Yes, maybe even this, from the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner:

(Working America report via Bruce Bartlett.)


The RealClear Politics Iowa average still has Marco Rubio trailing Donald Trump in Iowa by double digits, andtrailing Ted Cruz, by 7, but if a couple of recent Iowa polls are correct, Rubio may be surging. Here's Emerson College's poll:

And then there's an Opinion Savvy survey, with Trump at 20.1%, Cruz at 19.4%, and Rubio at 18.6%.

On the other hand, Bloomberg's Joshua Green said a couple of days ago that the Rubio surge isn't real:
Bloomberg News reporter Joshua Green analyzed the latest polling information during an interview on Breitbart News Sunday on the evening before the Iowa caucus.

He dismissed the buzz coming out of Washington D.C. suggesting that the Florida senator was surging right before the Republican primary caucus.

“There is no surge,” he said in an interview with Breitbart News Chairman Stephen K. Bannon on Sirius XM Patriot channel 125. “There is no evidence of anything like that.”

... He said that Rubio began in the single digits and managed to raise his polling numbers about five or six points before ending up with 15 percent.

“I wouldn’t call that a surge, it’s more of a gentle incline,” he said.
But it doesn't matter. A gentle incline is enough. If Rubio is in third place, if he's less than 10 points behind the winner, and if he wins a moderate number of delegates, he'll be on the front page of every mainstream media news site tomorrow -- yes, in a three-shot with #1 and #2 on many sites, but often in a two-shot with just the winner, and sometimes alone. (I think it'll be his face you see on Fox sites, given Rupert Murdoch's increasingly obvious preference for him. NBC News, too -- if you have the phrase "establishment lane" in a Chuck Todd drinking game over the next week, you might want to write a will before playing, because Todd's going to Todd's going to tell us endlessly that Rubio is the undisputed master of said lane.)

I'll post this again:

Little Marco may be about to take his first step today, after all that parental cheering.