Tag: Republican Party

McCarthy Steps Aside

Kevin McCarthy was on the brink of being the GOP’s nominee for Speaker when he unexpectedly stepped aside this morning. Right now, it’s not clear who the GOP will nominate. A few scattered thoughts:

This is not “chaos” as fun as it is to pretend so. The House has a Speaker until they elect a new one.

It’s not clear why McCarthy backed out. There are a lot of rumors but he has said that the Freedom Caucus demanded things he couldn’t give them. What those things are is not clear but there have been rumbling from the Freedom Caucus about a another government shutdown or a debt ceiling crash.

I suspect they will find someone else soon and this will blow over very quickly. It a very Inside the Beltway thing.

Boehner Out

John Boehner is apparently resigning from Congress and stepping down as Speaker. I’ll most more as events warrant. We’ll have to see what the GOP does. I know a lot of people don’t like Boehner because he didn’t have enough government- and party-wrecking confrontations. He’s has had a delicate balancing act over the last few years. But I think he’s gotten a reasonable amount done with a Democratic President in charge. If the GOP goes with someone crazy — a non-zero possibility — that’s all the more reason to be nervous about a unified Republican government. Hopefully they’ll go with someone like Paul Ryan.

Governing is the art of the possible. Boehner wasn’t perfect but he found things to do that were possible. We’ll have to see if the next speaker is interested in that or is interesting in making big dramatic gestures that accomplish nothing (e.g., the recent effort to defund Planned Parenthood which was apparently part of the impetus for Boehner’s resignation).

Another Shutdown?


Congress is running out of time to agree on a spending plan that keeps the government open, as Republican leaders attempt to defuse the threat of another shutdown – this one over Planned Parenthood.

Dozens of conservatives in the House and Senate have already pledged not to vote for a spending bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood. But both House speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell have rejected such proposals, worried that moderate and independent voters may blame the Republican party for a government shutdown.

Ya think? Shutting down the government two years ago accomplished little but had some support from the public. Shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood will accomplish nothing and have almost no support (current polling shows 70-20 opposition).

This is entirely about Planned Parenthood. The parties are in agreement on the budget, which basically sustains the fiscal path that has cut the budget deficit by 70% over the last six years. Right now, the leadership are trying to schedule a separate vote on defunding Planned Parenthood. Even if that passes, however, the President would veto it. And even if he didn’t, Planned Parenthood would almost certainly sue over it. Most of their government money come via Medicaid, for medical services they provide to poor women (this does not include abortion, for which funding is forbidden). So this would amount to singling them out among many providers for activities which, so far, are not illegal. Moreover, stripping this funding would not stop a single abortion, since Planned Parenthood’s abortion business is a separate revenue stream.

I have no idea where the Republican Party is headed right now. The two men leading the polls are Donald Trump and Ben Carson, neither of whom has any experience and neither of whom has shown much policy knowledge. Meanwhile, the campaign of several promising governors — Christie, Perry, Walker — are imploding. And now we’re talking about a government shutdown to stop an admittedly unpleasant abortion provider from … also providing health services and birth control. And while the GOP is flailing around like this, the Democrats are getting ready to put forward Hillary Clinton or, God help us, Bernie Sanders, as a Presidential candidate.

Give the culture cons their vote on Planned Parenthood. But once that fails, just pass the damn budget. It’s one thing to shut down over spiraling deficits. I didn’t support the shutdown over Obamacare but at least that was partially defensible. But this … this is just silliness. And with an election coming up, it could prove to be very costly silliness.

Trump Implodes

If you had July 18th in the pool for when Trump self-destructed, collect your winnings:

Donald Trump ignited a political firestorm Saturday by questioning whether Sen. John McCain — who spent over five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War — is a war hero.

By mid-afternoon, Trump tried to walk back his blunder on Twitter, saying “captured or not, all our soldiers are heroes!”

But his attempt at damage control seemed unlikely to diminish the anger his remarks had caused. They provoked an immediate outcry from his 2016 presidential rivals and the Republican National Committee, which has expressed concern about the impact his controversial remarks on immigration have had on the GOP brand.

The controversy began early Saturday afternoon, when Trump, speaking at a question-and-answer session at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, commented on McCain, with whom he’s recently feuded over illegal immigration.

“He is not a war hero,” Trump told pollster Frank Luntz, who was hosting the session.

“He is a war hero,” Luntz interjected.

“He is a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said, cutting him off. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He is a war hero because he was captured. OK, you can have — I believe perhaps he is a war hero.”

Let’s review John McCain’s record here. When we got into Vietnam, McCain requested a combat assignment. While on the Forrestal, he barely escaped with his life during the Forrestal fire and was injured trying to save another pilot. He then volunteered for combat duty again, during which he was shot down and captured.

“Shot down and captured” is a nice word for breaking both arms and a leg, being beaten by Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, bayoneted and put into the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He refused early release (the Vietnamese wanted to use his release for propaganda), which resulted in more torture.

No one — not even McCain’s harshest critics — questions that he was a war hero, both before his capture and especially during it. Trump, who appears to have received at least five deferments, including a medical one, should not be surprised with how people are reacting.

This is the problem with having a Presidential candidate who “says what he thinks”. Politics is the art of saying what you think without pissing off half the country. You frequently have to against what the majority of Americans want. If you look at some of our best Presidents — like Reagan — they had a way of expressing their point of view while not driving away the other party. They had a way of negotiating with foreign leaders while not driving them from the table. It’s a skill and a critical one. And I’ve seen no evidence that Trump has it.

I’m open a brash interloper who shakes things up. Hell, I’ve been a big fan of the Pauls for a while. I’m even a fan of third party candidates. I don’t think our budget would have gotten balanced in the 90’s if not for the Perot insurgency. But what is the issue that Trump’s trying to make noise about? Immigration? The economy? The deficit? Anything other than himself? Rand Paul is trying to open the party to young people and minorities. Marco Rubio has been trying to expand the party’s appeal to the middle and working class. Both of these men have done a good job this year of stating their views without driving anyone away. Who exactly is Trump trying to open the party to?

Trump won’t get the nomination, obviously. Despite “leading the polls” (i.e, drawing 17% in a big field based on name recognition), his negatives among the Republican party are off the charts. But the longer he is sucking up the oxygen in the room, the more likely it is that the Republicans establishment will panic and go with an ultra-safe candidate like Jeb Bush. And indeed, Jeb is getting the lion’s share of contributions right now.

I really hope this is the end of Trump’s publicity stunt, but I doubt it. He’s getting too much attention from the wing of the party that has long been dissatisfied with the leadership. It tells you how disaffected they are that they support someone like this:

In public statements, he has advocated government healthcare, a woman’s right to an abortion, an assault weapons ban, and paying off the national debt by forcing rich people to forfeit 14.25 percent of their total wealth. When the man married his third wife, he invited Bill and Hillary Clinton to the wedding, and he has given many thousands to their political campaigns and their foundation. He’s donated many thousands more that helped elect Democrats to the Senate and the House. And George W. Bush was “maybe the worst president in the history of this country,” the man said in 2008. “He was so incompetent, so bad, so evil.”

Look, I understand the frustration a lot of people have the GOP, especially on issues like immigration .We have a lot of problems right now that need to addressed: big future deficits, big current deficits, the bill coming due for Obamacare, a broken immigration system, a broken justice system, Russia rattling the saber, a brewing Sunni-Shia War in the Middle East. I like the idea of supporting an insurgent candidate but Trump is not that candidate. He’s a circus freak biting the heads of chickens. And his comments on John McCain are just the wool coming off of a few million eyes.

Trump In

Donald Trump just declared that he’s running for President this year, apparently as a Republican, in one of the oddest speeches I’ve ever seen from a Presidential candidate. God knows what he’ll do. He has been famous for really awful ideas, including a proposal for a wealth tax.

This is going to be highly entertaining to blog, but bad for the Republic in the long run. We now have 12 Republican presidential candidates. Some of them are serious (Bush, Rubio, Walker, maybe Kasich and Perry), some have interesting things to say (Paul), some are just engaged in ego-stroking and some are just insane.

If they don’t pull their shit together, Hillary is going to coast to victory.

What Now?

So now that the Republicans have taken back both houses of Congress, what should they do for the next two years? Nothing, argues National Review:

The desire to prove Republicans can govern also makes them hostage to their opponents in the Democratic party and the media. It empowers Senator Harry Reid, whose dethroning was in large measure the point of the election. If Republicans proclaim that they have to govern now that they run Congress, they maximize the incentive for the Democrats to filibuster everything they can — and for President Obama to veto the remainder. Then the Democrats will explain that the Republicans are too extreme to get anything done.

They’ll say that anyway. If the Republicans proposed poached eggs for breakfast, the Democrats would denounce them as dangerous extremists. And I don’t think NRO actually believes this argument because they later say Republicans should force the Democrats to filibuster/veto popular legislation.

Even if Republicans passed this foolish test, it would do little for them. If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?

Which brings us to the alternative course: building the case for Republican governance after 2016. That means being a responsible party, to be sure, just as the conventional wisdom has it. But part of that responsibility involves explaining what Republicans stand for — what, that is, they would do if they had the White House.

So the Republicans shouldn’t govern. Instead, they should gear up for 2016 to take the White House and Congress at which point they will … what? … concentrate on keeping power?

I’m sorry, but I really don’t care about the Republican Party one way or the other. Whether governing hurts or helps their prospects in 2016 is irrelevant to me and should be irrelevant to people who are not actual party operatives. We had a unified Republican government for six years and the result was the most massive expansion of government power since the New Deal.

No. What we want from the Republicans is progress. What we want is for them to turn back the tide of government expansion. What we want is for them to … what’s that word … govern? The Republicans are on probation right now. It’s up for them to prove themselves worthy of getting power back.

There is precedent for governing and winning elections at the same time: Republicans worked with President Clinton and kept Congress and won the White House twice as a result. But they didn’t win because they grandstanded. The won because the accomplished things — welfare reform, spending restraint, NAFTA — that made them worthy of winning all three branches of government.

Nick Gillespie:

Yet Republicans mistake the meaning of the midterms at their own peril. These elections were a particularly frank repudiation of Barack Obama and the past six years of failed stimulus, disastrous foreign policy, and rotten economic news. Even the president’s historic health-care reform remains a negative with voters. But if the GOP thinks it has a mandate to return to the equally unpopular bailout economics and social conservatism of the George W. Bush years, it too will be sent packing as early as the next election.

You should read Nick’s entire piece, which breaks down the polling to show a decisive shift against big-government, in every respect.

It’s not enough for the Republicans to not be Obama. “Not Obama” isn’t going to be a candidate in 2016. In fact, Obama won’t be a candidate in 2016 (savor that relief for a moment). If the Republicans want to earn our votes in 2016, they need to accomplish things. They need to prove themselves worthy. They need to show that they can get government out our hair, despite the man in the White House.

How does this break down into nuts and bolts? On the day after the election, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell laid out an agenda for the next two years. It includes approving the Keystone XL pipeline, tax reform and fast track trade authority. It also includes three changes to Obamacare: raising to 40 the hours needed to qualify as a full-time employee for the employer mandate, exempting veterans from counting toward the 50-employee mark that triggers the coverage mandate and repealing the medical device tax.

These are all OK ideas and some of them — like fast track trade authority — are supported by the President. But it’s kind of small potatoes. It’ll make a nice first month, but it’s not exactly the Contract with America. I would prefer something a bit bolder.

This would involved finding things that the Democrats or the President will support. There’s a strain of thought among conservatives, exemplified by the NRO piece above, that working with Democrats will give “legitimacy” to Obama. Nuts to that. The country needs things done. And if we can the President on board, great.

But the Republicans should also pass legislation they know will be filibustered or vetoed. This could give the Democrats something to talk about in 2016 (“look at the extreme legislation we blocked!”). But I think it more likely, if Republicans are smart … OK, if they’re not too dumb … OK, if they’re not completely stupid … that it would give the Republicans something to run on in 2016. It would give the American people something to vote for, not just something to vote against. When the Republicans have run on a positive agenda — Reagan in 1980, Newt in 1994 — they have done well.

As for specific issues: the first on that list would be entitlement reform. The President has indicated that he is open to it. It’s time to call his bluff. The deficit has been shrinking in recent years but will soon begin to blow up as the bill for Baby Boomer retirees comes do. The time to act is now, before we are back in the land of trillion dollar deficits.

A lot of Republicans worry that overhauling Medicare and Social Security will open them up to attack from the Democrats. But here’s the thing: that’s going to happen anyway. The number of elections that have not included a Democrat “mediscare” campaign over the last forty years is precisely zero. The Democrats are going to demonize Republicans anyway. At the very least we could get something out of it. And if it costs the Republicans some seats, so be it. It would be worth it to slice trillions off our debt.

The counter-argument is they should wait until the Republicans have the White House as well. That way, they won’t have to compromise with Democrats and accept a tax hike or defense spending cuts in return for entitlement reform. I find that hope ridiculously optimistic. It assumes that Republicans will take the White House and keep the Senate. And it assumes that they will take the political risk of entitlement reform once they have full power, which I find unlikely.

Act now. At the very least, call the President’s bluff. Then you’ll have something to run on in 2016.

The second priority should be regulatory reform, which is sucking a couple of trillion dollars out of the economy. Probably the most important regulatory reform is the repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley, which is strangling our economy, halting IPOs and a nightmare for businesses. It’s the poisonous spider at the center of the web of economic malaise. President Obama will probably oppose this. Good! Make him stand with the bureaucrats and trial lawyers! Over 60% of the American people think regulation is too onerous, including many independents. This is a winning issue for Republicans.

Third would be an overhaul of the patent and copyright laws which are strangling innovation. The Republicans are open to this and the President is too, despite fierce opposition from trial lawyers. Reform could be passed in the first few months of 2015.

Fourth, an overhaul of our drug policy, specifically a recognition of state laws on medical and recreational marijuana. The President has occasionally made noises on this and a majority of Americans now favor pot legalization. The Republicans can get ahead of the Democrats on this by embracing a federalist approach: states that keep pot illegal will still have the aide of the DEA in keeping it illegal; states that make it legal will be left alone. I have little hope the Republicans will do this, but it would be a great step for them.

Fifth, an overhaul of Obama’s anti-terror powers. Justin Amash and Rand Paul give me hope that the GOP may be open to this. The best thing about reigning in Obama’s police state would be exposing the lie that the Democrats are the party of civil liberties and personal freedom.

That’s just for starters. There are other things: more spending cuts, reigning in Obama’s foreign policy and executive power excesses, a symbolic repeal of Obamacare (symbolic because it will be vetoed). But I see the above as doable and I see it as proving the GOP’s supposed small-government bona fides. If they’re serious, they will do something along these lines.

I have no doubt that the Republicans will run into opposition from the President. In fact, his petulant press conference seemed to promise that he would do what he wants on issues like immigration and only invite cooperation on his agenda. We’ll see what happens behind closed doors. This President has, on occasion, compromised with Republicans. But he has also been willing to take a my-way-or-the-highway approach, particularly when he had Congress for the first two years (Republicans were invited only to tweak details of Democratic legislation; kind of like being asked which arm you want the shark to bite off).

But if the President is determined to pursue his agenda and won’t cooperate, then pass the legislation anyway. Force him to veto it. Force him to oppose. Force his party to go on record as the party of bigger taxes, more government and no reform. Force him to tie his former Secretary of State and Heir Apparent to his unpopular agenda.

That’s something you can run in 2016. That’s something that might bring my vote in 2016. Until then, I will remain skeptical of the GOP and their commitment to small government.

Bad Plebs! Bad bad plebs!

So last night was a big deal for the Republicans. In the Senate, they surged to 52 seats, with one run-off (Louisiana) and two races that are too close to call (Alaska and Virginia). We’re probably looking at 53-54 seat majority. They will probably also gain about ten seats in the House. They won governor’s mansions in Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts. They lost Pennsylvania mostly because Corbett was extremely unpopular (and deservedly so).

On ballot initiatives, fetal personhood was rejected in two states, legal pot won in two states (and fell shy of supermajority in Florida). Minimum wage hikes also passed in four states.

Anyway, the best part of any election is always the rending of garments, gnashing of teeth and making of excuses by the losing side. Here are just a few things I have learned since the Republicans won the election last night, with my responses in italics:

We shouldn’t be having midterms anyway (For example, the 2006 midterm: WTF?).

The Republicans only won because of evil dirty money (The Republican spending advantage was about 10%. Democrats raised nearly $2 billion in campaign funds).

The Republicans only won because young people didn’t turn out (This is what happens when you confuse the Cult of Obama with a Permanent Democractic Majority).

The Republicans only won because they suppressed the black vote (The Republicans also elected the South’s first black senator in South Carolina).

This was not a rejection of any liberal ideas. (If you identify liberal issues solely by the ones that are popular, sure. But while the public may broadly agree with the Democrats on some specific issues, they disagree with massively with the Democrats’ performance.)

Republicans only won because the adopted liberal positions. (You should read that article, because it basically agrees with everything we’ve been saying: that Democratic policies harm the causes they supposedly support.)

Republicans only won because of redistricting (Apparently, you can redistrict states now).

Democrats only lost because of hate and racism (That’s half true. People do hate $18 trillion in debt and skyrocketing insurance rates).

Republicans only won because the map was unfavorable (It’s the same map Democrats won on six years ago.).

The next few are from various comments sections and I’ll just throw up there for the LOLs:

Republicans only won because we don’t have mandatory voting. Republicans won because of the skewed the polls, making Democrats overconfident. Democrats lost because they didn’t run on their awesome liberal record. Republicans won because they lied about Obama’s record. Republicans won because they had more virgins to sacrifice to the great electoral god, Gerrymaunderkin.

Ok, I made that last one up.

For what it’s worth, I think Republicans won for a variety of reasons. They put together a broader and more appealing party; they stayed away from divisive issues and concentrated on the economy; they let the Democrats beclown themselves. But mostly, I think, it was simple fatigue. The country is tired of Barack Obama. It is tired of Nancy Pelosi. It is tired of Harry Reid. Hell, I’m tired of blogging about them. These three clowns have dominated our politics for almost a decade now and the American people are tired of them. They aren’t over-eager for the Republicans. But the new faces of the GOP — Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Scott Walker, John Kasich, etc. — are certainly a lot less depressing than the Democrats.

The Avalanche Has Already Started; It Is Too Late for the Pebbles to Vote

The dam has broken. No matter what our opinions might be of it, gay marriage is becoming a fact of life. On the heels of recent decisions by either judges or legislatures in Hawaii, Oklahoma, Nevada, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Arkansas, Idaho and Oregon, a judge in Pennsylvania today struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. That’s the fourth court victory for gay marriage advocates just this month. And this one, complete with a long and forceful opinion, was issued by a Bush 43 appointee whose appointment to the federal bench was approved by none other than Rick Santorum. (Judge Jones also wrote a long and stirring opinion against teaching creationism in public schools in Kitzmiller v. Dover). That makes 19 states where gay marriage is either legal or has won a recent court victory.

There is simply no putting this genie back in the bottle. Some of those overturns may be reversed by higher courts. Some may be turned over to referendums again. But even those are unlikely to pass. As I said when the Republican Party was pushing a wave of anti-gay-marriage amendments in 2004, their urgency was because they could see that they were losing support. It was then or never. The tide stopped in 2012 when Minnesota turned back an amendment in a tough battle. Now it has turned and is roaring back out to sea. California’s Prop 8 would not pass now. Some of the redder states would be able to keep it illegal, but even there, support is crumbling. Within ten years, gays will be probably be able to marry almost everywhere in this country. Maybe even less. This issue is basically dead (although, as I argued with the Brendan Eich case, I would prefer that people not gloat about it).

There is one question that sill lingers in mind however: whether this issue will haunt the Republican Party down the road. I’ve spoken of this before:

Back in the 1970′s, the GOP stepped back from their previous support for civil rights to support the so-called “Southern Strategy”: an effort to woo segregationists from the Democrats. The idea was not to embrace segregation, per se, but to jump on racially sensitive issues like welfare to build a power base in the South.

While it managed to get a few politicians to defect (Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond), it never really helped their electoral prospects. In Presidential races, they won the whole country in 1972, lost the South in 1976 and 1980, won the whole country in 1984 and 1988, split the South in 1992 and 1996. It was only in the mid-90′s that the South turned and, by that point, no one gave a crap about segregation issues. The turn was over economic issues. And by 2008, Barack Obama was able to dominate the South in the primaries and compete in the general election, winning three states.

Just to clarify this point: the Republicans took the South because the South was always conservative. The only reason the South hadn’t voted Republican up until the 90’s was because of the Democratic Party’s century-long history of racist politics. Growing up in Atlanta, I knew people whose family had never voted Republican. When George Allen was elected to the Virginia legislature, he was one of only a handful of Republicans. When the South went red in 1994, Republicans were winning elections in Southern states for the first time since the Civil War. The South was always conservative. They were going to go Republican eventually. It was only Johnson’s management of the Wallace faction that kept it blue for so long.

However, the Southern Strategy did have one palpable effect: both on its own and through liberal harping about it, the Southern Strategy alienated black voters to the point where the GOP is lucky to poll in single digits. This is despite a fair amount of conservatism among blacks, who are heavily pro-life and pro-school choice. P.J. O’Rourke said that Clinton’s popularity among blacks was because he allowed them to vote for a Republican without throwing up.

In the 40’s and 50’s, Republicans routinely drew support among black voters in the 20-30% range. If that trend had continued, more than a few elections would have gone differently.

I’m afraid the GOP is going down the same path again with their stance on gay issues. The country is shifting rapidly on these issues, especially among young voters — much more rapidly than it did on racial issues. Huge majorities oppose DADT, including a majority of conservatives. Gay marriage is closing in on majority support and large majorities favor at least civil unions. And barring gay adoption or gay sex simply isn’t on the radar for any but the most ardent cultural conservatives. Yet the entire GOP field supports DADT and DOMA, most favor the Marriage Amendment and Santorum favors just about every anti-gay measure you can think of.

Some of this support is in name only — the FMA, for example, has zero change of happening. But their vocal support for these policies is going to come back to bite them and probably not too far in the future. As more gays come out of the closet, as more people have gay friends and relatives, as more gays get married and have kids and as the world fails to end despite this, people are going to remember where the GOP was on this. People with gay kids are going to remember that the Rick Santorum wanted to deny their in-laws and take away their grandkids. People whose lives were saved by gay soldiers will realize they would have died had DADT been in place.

We are going to pay for this crap. And we are going to pay and pay and pay (literally, given the spending habits of the Democrats).

My fears have only strengthened in the three years since I wrote those words. While a number of Republicans have broken ranks — showing much more political courage than any Democrats, incidentally — I still fear that gay marriage will go down in history as a faint echo of the Southern Strategy debacle. A faint echo because the Republican opposition was at least partially built on principle. It was clear in 2004 that many Republicans were uncomfortable with their gay marriage position (you may remember a leaked phone call where Bush talked about how much he disliked taking the position) and that this was, at least in part, a cold political calculus from Karl Rove who thought opposing gay marriage would win a tough election. But most of the opposition was a principled opposition to changing one of the pillars of our civilization.

(The echo should be even fainter because Democrats opposed gay marriage until it became politically safe not to. But Democrats are never held to any standard, let alone the ones that Republicans are held to. Republicans still get beat up over their short-lived Southern Strategy; Democrats are absolved from their century-long embrace of Jim Crow.)

Still, I think the analogy holds. It will not be forgotten that Republicans were the face of the opposition to gay marriage and that the remaining opposition is from Republicans. Will this hurt them enough to matter in an election? There are a lot fewer gays than there are blacks and they are not as unified electorally. But considering how close some elections have been, it’s entirely possible that this will hurt us down the road, especially as the young people who support gay marriage today become the political force of tomorrow.

The Democrats Open the Gubernatorial Clown Car

One thing I’ve mentioned in this space before is that while I frequently despair of Republicans on the national level, there has been a surge of Republican governors who are competent, conservative and effective. This can not, however, be said of their Democratic counterparts. Last week, I countered the assertion that Jerry Brown is the Best. Governor. Ever. But two more races are drawing attention to the complete dearth of ideas that is the Democratic Party.

The first is in New Jersey, where Chris Christie looks ready to easily win a second term. Christie is winning because of his first term performance and popularity in the state. But if I were a Democrat, I would be embarrassed by the opposition. I showed last week how Buono completely muffed a softball question in the debate. Her performance has been so bad, however, that the Star-Ledger spends half of its governor endorsement slamming Christie as a fraud only to endorse him because Buono is so awful:

Begin with education. Buono’s close alliance with the teachers union is a threat to the progress Christie is making in cities such as Newark and Camden. She is hostile to charter schools, which now educate nearly 1 in 4 kids in Newark.

Buono opposes the Newark teacher contract, which freezes the pay of the worst teachers and grants bonuses to the best. She wants a traditional union deal, in which no distinction is made. She would return control of the schools to Newark, which would spell the end of Superintendent Cami Anderson’s promising stewardship.

Her critique of Christie centers on property taxes and jobs, but she lacks a convincing strategy to do any better herself. She has a long list of expensive plans, from universal preschool to more aid for public colleges. But she can’t name a single spending cut beyond the traditional promise to attack “fraud and abuse.”

(I think it’s hilarious that the Star-Ledger, in criticizing Buono, inadvertently highlights Christie’s achievements. It’s like they can’t quite bring themselves to admit he’s been pretty good.)

But it’s worse. The other race is in Virginia. This should be a gimme for the Democrats. The McDonnell Administration has been hit by scandals and the state, thanks to the exploding public sector in the DC/NoVa area, has been trending blue. The Republican nominee is Ken Cuccinelli, a deeply divisive attorney general who only won the nomination by changing the rules. So the Democrats looked around and nominated … you won’t believe this … Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe is such an awful candidate that the Richmond Times-Dispatch decided to endorse … no one:

The Democrat stumbles when he proposes major spending hikes, which he claims can be financed by the federal dollars the state would receive by expanding Medicaid. He offers an easy answer to a tough question … On energy generally, McAuliffe has spun like a top and now supports items he once opposed, such as the exploration for energy sources off Virginia’s shores … McAuliffe styles himself a businessman and entrepreneur. He inhabits the crossroads where the public and private sectors intersect and sometimes collide. His experience with GreenTech does not generate confidence. He located the plant in Mississippi, which is not known for its social enlightenment. The company has not lived up to expectations. If it eventually does, no credit will accrue to McAuliffe, for he has, he says, stepped away from it. He is not the reincarnation of Henry Ford. His ignorance of state government is laughable and makes Rick Perry, the notorious governor of Texas, look like a Founding Father.

I’ve watched this race for a while and McAuliffe crosses me as someone who thinks it is basically his turn. He’s been involved in politics for a while, dammit, and he thinks he deserves this. He doesn’t know the issues and doesn’t seem terribly interested in learning about them. He doesn’t know Virginia government and doesn’t seem terribly interested in learning about it. And he’s the best the Virginia Democrats could come up with. Seriously.

The T-D comes close to endorsing Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis but shies away because of his lack of experience. I find that spineless. I endorse Sarvis and if I still lived in Virginia, would vote for him. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in not being a buffoon. As it is, McAuliffe is leading in the polls. Whatever failings Sarvis may have, he’s got be better than McAullife. If you think McDonnell has had scandals, just wait until that jackanapes is in the Governor’s mansion.

Next year may even more amazing. The Democrats want to run Wendy Davis for governor of Texas. You may remember her from the abortion filibuster earlier this year as well as … well, nothing. Davis’s only real claim to fame is filibustering a bill that had the support of two-thirds of Texans. Whatever you may think about abortion, this is not an issue that is going to win Democrat the Texas state house. In my own state, Tom Corbett has become deeply unpopular but it’s not clear that the Democrats will nominate anyone in 2014 who has more credibility than Shakes the Clown.

The Republicans at the national level have been criticized for being out of ideas. But I think that applies even doubly so to Democrats at the state level. They seem to think that because they see Republicans as evil monsters, everyone else does too and all they need to is prop someone up who can spew liberal bullshit long enough to win. They’re in for a rude shock in the next year.