Tag: Republican Presidential Primary

Sully Panics

With the GOP race basically over (Trump won Indiana overwhelmingly last night), Andrew Sullivan has emerged from hiding to pen a piece for the New Yorker that sites Plato, Sinclair Lewis and Eric Hoffer to argue that Trump represents the end of our democracy.


For Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.

No, he’s not.

I’ve said this before and I expect to say it again a lot over the next six months, especially if Trump begins to close in the polls or, Heaven help us, wins. Trump is not Hitler. At worst, he is a low-rent George Wallace. We can survive him. And we will.

Nick Gillespie has a great response:

The most important thing to understand about Trump is that he is not the start of anything new but the culmination of a long degenerative process that has been at work for the entirety of the 21st century. He is a sterile mule in the end, not a jackass who might have hideous offspring. He is the effect, not the cause, of the ways in which the two major parties have destroyed themselves by refusing to take their own rhetoric or govern seriously. The Republican Party said it stood for small government when virtually every major action it has pursued at least since the 9/11 attacks has yielded the opposite result. The Democratic Party, still trying to maintain a disparate collection of special-interest groups that started morphing and changing and expiring by the mid-1960s, lays claim to the mantle of caring about regular Americans even as its last three major presidential candidates (John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton) long ago achieved escape velocity from caring about anything resembling everyday reality.

The century was ushered in under the single-most-contested election in U.S. history, with each party suddenly adopting the other’s philosophy in pursuit of victory. The Republicans called it a federal matter while the Dems wholeheartedly embraced state’s rights (this switcheroo would repeat itself in the Terri Schiavo affair). The deep-seated recognition by voters that each party is uncommitted to anything approaching its core values is what’s driving the 2016 election season. While enjoying complete control of the federal government for years under Bush, the Republican Party didn’t just go war-crazy but spending-crazy, regulation-crazy, and entitlement-crazy.

Gillespie argues, not unconvincingly, that Trump was the only GOP candidate who seemed to stand for anything. And I would add that Sanders’ popularity was because he was the only candidate who seemed to stand for anything. Ultimately, the Democratic establishment had more control over their process than the GOP did of theirs (and, as Conor notes, has not invested as much in toxic rhetoric). But you can almost imagine the American voter echoing the dying words of Shepherd Book: “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.”

My take is slightly different. The country isn’t 100% conservative or 100% liberal. Or even 51%. Or even 30%. Issues have be resolved with compromise and deal-making and no one gets everything they want. Reagan, to cite the most obvious example, had strong conservative principles but compromised to get a conservative agenda passed.

But what’s been going on in Washington for the last 15 years has not been compromise between two principled if opposed ideologies; it’s been mindless gamesmanship and selling out. “Wall Street reform” that further empowered big bangs. “Health care reform” that made health insurance more expensive. Budgets that never go through a real budgeting process. Wars started stupidly and managed poorly. A “War on Terror” that mainly eats the privacy and freedom of law-abiding citizens.

Trump is indeed the end stage of that: an uninformed unthinking demagogue who makes ridiculous promises that can’t possibly be fulfilled. Maybe if such a candidate crashes and burns, we’ll see a better saner GOP emerge from the rubble.

Or not. I wouldn’t complete discount the “stockpile food and ammo” approach here. The last few months have been rough. I’ve been blogging less, in part, because I’m simply sick of it. We’ll get a brief respite now as both candidates try to consolidate their parties. And then I’m anticipating unrelenting ugliness from the conventions to the election.

Maybe I’ll just start blogging about cats or something.

Still, despite Sully’s hysterics, I expect the country to soldier on. We are more than our government. It holds us down, it ties our hands, it beats our asses. But we keep trudging along: going to work, raising our kids, doing our best. As long as that stays true, no politician, not even Donald Trump, can be an “extinction-level event”.

Cruz-Fiorina 2020

This smacks of desperation:

Ted Cruz formally named Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate Wednesday — a last-ditch move to regain momentum after being mathematically eliminated from winning the GOP presidential nomination outright.

“After a great deal of consideration and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that if I am nominated to be president of the United States that I will run on a ticket with my vice presidential nominee Carly Fiorina,” Cruz said during a rally in Indianapolis.

Fiorina joined the Texas senator on stage, and Cruz’s staff changed the podium in between Cruz and Fiorina’s remarks to display a new logo featuring both their names.

Indiana and California are the last chance for Cruz to derail Trump. I’m guessing he thinks Fiorina will boost him in California. I’m also guessing he’s wrong. No one ever voted for a President based on his Vice President. In fact, given some of the hamsters we’ve had as Vice Presidential nominees — Palin, Gore, Quayle, Mondale, Agnew — I’d say the running mate is almost irrelevant to a candidate’s prospects.

Rubio and Cruz Go After Trump

So last night’s debate was … something else. Rubio and Cruz both came out swinging, hitting Donald Trump at every turn on his support for Democrats, his lack of policy detail, his shady business dealings and his refusal to release his tax returns. Trump got the most flustered I’ve ever seen him and hit back, but futilely. His attempt to hit Rubio on the latter’s meltdown at a previous debate backfired when Rubio pointed out that Trump repeats himself all the time. It was like watching a WWE match with Trump playing the heel and Cruz and Rubio taking turns whacking him with folding chairs. For someone who despises Trump, it was beautiful.

(Although the line of the night went to Ben Carson. Carson, even more than Kasich, was sidelined by the Rubio-Cruz-Trump show, going something like half an hour between speaking. Blitzer lost control of the debate, letting the three front-runners constantly demand a chance to respond to attacks. This promoted Carson to quip, “Can someone please attack me?”)

This is what the candidates should have been doing for months. It’s what the Democrats will do should Trump be the nominee. It may be too little, too late. It probably won’t peel voters off of Trump, who seem immune to any failing on his part. But at least if Rubio and Cruz go out, they went out on their shields.

Yet Another Republican Debate

I was in and out, catching parts of last night’s Republican debate. I missed what the media are assuring me today is the end of Marco Rubio’s campaign: when Chris Christie called him out for repeating the same canned talking points over and over and Rubio responded by … repeating his talking points.

Strictly on points, that was a big deal. Christie has been making this point for a while — and it’s a good one — that he (and Kasich and Bush) have a lot more experience in getting things done while Rubio (and Cruz) are mostly good at making speeches. Rubio does tend to fall back on canned speeches and his record of accomplishment is thin. He isn’t very good at improvising, something that has hurt him in direct interactions with voters and party stalwarts.

But …

This really crosses me as inside-the-beltway media stuff. I really don’t think the voting public is going to care very much whether Rubio is repeating himself. If this were debate club, Christie would have won, but it’s not. Repeating talking points is part of politics (Christie should know, as he never forgets to remind us that he was appointed as a federal prosecutor after 9/11). And Rubio gave an answer on abortion — talking about the rights of the woman the rights of the fetus being in contention — that was off the charts with conservatives in my Twitter feed. I disagree with Rubio on abortion, but his answer, pre-packaged or not, really resonated with GOP base. That’s what they’ll remember.

The other highlight was Jeb Bush finally landing a punch on Donald Trump. Bush hit the Donald hard on Trump’s abuse of eminent domain and the Donald had no answer, eventually turning on the audience as they booed him. I think the second place finish in Iowa and the leveling of the polls is getting to Trump. He’s still leading in New Hampshire, but if he loses, we could see an epic meltdown.

Overall, I think this is still a three-man race, with Christie as a possible dark horse should the leaders falter. I expect Trump to win New Hampshire. But the race is anyone’s to win right now.

Iowa Votes

Well, after a runup that seems to start shortly after I was born, we will finally get the first votes cast today in Iowa. It will be a while before we know what happens. I will post updates as events warrant.

This election cycle defies prediction, but I’ll make one anyway. Clinton narrowly edges Sanders, something like 49-45. Trump wins Iowa but with a smaller margin than expected. Something like Trump 25, Cruz 22, Rubio 17. He will then say something outrageous so that the media will give him free campaign ads talk about it until New Hampshire.

We might see one or two candidates drop out after Iowa, but I suspect most of them will hang on until New Hampshire and possibly South Carolina.

A Clown Car Without The Clown

Just a quick note on last night’s debate.

It was easily the best and most substantive debate we’ve had so far. The absence of Trump and presence of Megyn Kelly meant pointed tough questions for the candidates. Several of them did massively better. Rand Paul showed why I always liked him, giving an excellent answer on criminal justice reform and landing a few solid blows on Cruz. Bush looked better than he had in months, although it’s probably too little too late.

The big loser, in my mind, was Ted Cruz. Trump’s bloviating narcissism had the effect, in early debates, of making Cruz look good. Without that distraction, Cruz’s big flaws as a candidate were on display. He did a poor job explaining his flip-flop on immigration. The other candidates attacked him on various issues and were effective in doing so. This was his chance to make some headway on Donald Trump and he didn’t.

Really, this was the campaign we should have been having for the last four months, with Paul, Christie, Cruz, Rubio and Bush fighting it out for the heart of the party. It really highlighted just how badly the Trump Show has damaged the GOP’s chances.

The consensus this morning is that Trump was a big winner because he wasn’t there to get pinned on the issues while his rivals attacked each other. I’m not so sure, mainly because these are the same people who’ve been pronouncing Trump dead for the last year. If they think he did well, he must have done poorly. The caucuses are next week, so we’ll soon find out. But my suggestion for the future, if the GOP wants to recover, is to let the Donald sit out every future debate. They are way better off without him.

Debate Number … Uh … 85?

So we had another Republican debate last night. As before, it went on way too long and involved way too many, “say something nasty about the other candidates” crap. But one thing became apparent very quickly: this is now a three-man race between Trump, Cruz and Rubio. Other candidates got their moments — especially Christie. But it really came down to those three. Cruz absolutely buried Trump on the ridiculous “birther” question, landing the first real blows anyone has landed on the Donald. Rubio hit Cruz on flip-flopping. And Trump responded well to Cruz’s “New York values” nonsense. I don’t think any of them did anything to massively change the polls. But I did get a sense that Trump has peaked.

Of course, people have been pronouncing Trump’s campaign dead since the day it began so ….

Some of the other candidates are lingering around and I expect Paul, as the only non-hawk, to stick around as long as he can. Christie remains tenacious but can’t seem to get any traction. But it’s really down to those three.

At this point, it really is time for the GOP and the debate committees to narrow the field some more. Fiorina, Kasich, Huckabee and Santorum are no longer serious candidates and shouldn’t even be at the “kid’s table” debate. They should also consider winnowing Bush, Christie and Carson (as I said on Twitter, every time Bush spoke I got that feeling that a guest had stayed in my house way too long). The longer this drags out, the more garbage we’re going to get instead of substantive debate and the more likely it is that Hillary (or Sanders) will have an easy ride to the White House.

With the Iowa Caucuses bearing down on us, I’ll refrain from making any predictions. It’s going to be an interesting few months, though.

(In other news, the President gave his last State of the Union address. I’d write a post but … it was just such a pointless exercise. It was an hour of him pretending he hadn’t been President for seven years. Sitting here, two days later, I can’t think of any proposals he had other than less partisanship (from Republicans … he couldn’t resist taking his own cheapshots at the GOP). I thought Haley did OK with the GOP response, but again … not a lot of substance there.)

Perry Out, Marianne In

Things got interesting for Camp Newt today. He is apparently surging in the South Carolina polls. Rick Perry dropped out and endorsed him. And, as Rich noted below, wife Number 2 is set to give a TV interview dishing on all his personal scumbaggery. I’ll let Rich’s post address the Marianne Ginrich thing, but I thought I’d post a quick thought on Perry.

This is not unexpected and I think his withdrawal speech was actually one of his better campaign moments. Looking back, I’m not sure Perry really wanted to be President. He liked the attention, but he always seemed to be fine with the idea of just going back to Texas. In this environment, I’d frankly rather be Governor of Texas, too. At least I’d have access to Austin barbecue.

Huntsman Out

John Huntsman is dropping out and endorsing Romney after one of the more puzzling campaigns in recent memory.

I can not understand how Huntsman failed to gain any traction with the GOP. His record as governor was staunchly conservative. As I tweeted last night, he not only had a plan to deal with “too big to fail banks”, he seemed to be the only candidate — Republican or Democrat — who realized that “too big to fail” was even a problem worth addressing. I realize his more pragmatic foreign policy — eschewing a trade war with China or a real war with Iran — didn’t go over well. But … everyone else had a turn as the “not-Romney”. The GOP electorate gave serious consideration to loonies like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump. It took a good look at Newt Gingrich before remembering that he was Newt Gingrich. It took a good look at Rick Perry before he began losing debates with himself.

I think the blame has to go squarely on … this may sound crazy … Huntsman himself. He never seemed positioned himself for a serious run. He seemed to think that getting glowing reviews from the media was enough. Rick Santorum, whatever else you might say about him, worked his ass off in Iowa to drum up votes. Ron Paul, whatever else you might say about him, energizes his base with frequent speeches and memorable debate performances. Huntsman didn’t seem to realize that he had to get more than just media endorsements. He had to also get votes.

New Hampshire

As expected, Mitt Romney won New Hampshire tonight, with Paul in second and Huntsman a strong third. This is rapidly narrowing down. I don’t expect anyone to drop out before South Carolina, but Perry is looking increasingly toasted to me. Santorum’s momentum is fading. And Gingrich might win South Carolina but that’s about it. This is slowly becoming a one-man race, with Paul as the protest vote.

What was really telling to me was that turnout was down from 2008. You would expect that a Party disgusted with Obama would be more enthusiastic than the Party that was reeling from Bush. But I don’t think any of the candidates really excite them. Paul is only one who generates real excitement among his supporters, but they are a small slice of the GOP. Lots of GOP voters are still saying, “That’s all ya got? What, is Chris Christie’s cell phone busted?”