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Monday, April 27, 2015

HRC and Kazakhstan

Glenn Reynolds sums up at USA Today:
It was a bad week for Hillary Clinton. So bad, in fact, that The Washington Post declared she had "the worst week in Washington." From The New York Times, there were reports of shady uranium deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakhstan. From The Post, it was reporting on how the Clintons' foundation seems more like a personal piggy bank. And from Politico, it was a report that "Clinton struggles to contain media barrage on foreign cash." (If you haven't kept up, here's a bullet-point summary of the key bits). And the book that led to all these stories isn't even out yet.
The responses from Clintonworld have been unconvincing — my favorite was when their supporters denied that a meeting between Bill Clinton and shadowy Kazakh nuclear officials had taken place, only to have a The Times reporter produce photo evidence. But, hey, the Clintons have survived even more concrete evidence of scandal — remember Monica Lewinsky's semen-stained dress? — so why should this time be any different?
Breitbart reports:
New York Times reporter Jo Becker said that after Bill Clinton gave Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev a “propaganda coup,” businessman Frank Giustra got a large uranium concession in the country, and then gave large sums to the Clinton Foundation in an interview broadcast on Friday’s Fox News Channel special “The Tangled Clinton Web.”
Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer said that Clinton showed up in Kazakhstan, the same place businessman Frank Giustra was attempting to acquire uranium mines, and became “partners” with Bill Clinton in charity work, and has facilitated speaking engagements for the Clintons.
Becker said that Giustra and Clinton were “whisked to the presidential palace of President Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, and it’s a fascinating story because everybody walked away from the table that night with something.”
She continued, “what President Nazarbayev got was this huge propaganda coup. Bill Clinton basically endorsed the progress that Kazakhstan had made in terms of their own democracy, which was sort of interesting given that President Nazarbayev was elected with 90+% of the vote in an election that was widely criticized as being rigged.” 
AFP reports:
Energy-rich Kazakhstan's incumbent strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev scored a crushing victory in Sunday's one-sided presidential ballot, taking 97.5 percent of the vote to win a fifth consecutive term, an exit poll showed.
The exit poll carried out by the Institute for Democracy, a research company based in the authoritarian state, also showed Nazarbayev's closest competitor Turgun Syzdykov as scoring 1.8 percent of the ballot and third candidate Abelgazy Kusainov taking 0.63 percent.
Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission (CEC) claimed a record voter turnout of 95.11 percent for the poll whose result was never in doubt.
The CEC is expected to present preliminary results on Monday.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Focus on the Fundamentals

Charles Cook wisely urges observers to focus on the fundamentals of the presidential race:
  • The political environment (especially the economy): "The candidate that presents a compelling, optimistic economic narrative that answers the question of "how are you going to help make MY life better" is the candidate who will win the debate."
  • The debates: "Elections are about contrasts. One of the most effective ways for candidates to distinguish themselves - for good and bad - is through debates."
  • The Super PACS: "Elections are about money. Raising money for a campaign with $2,700 checks and bundlers is so yesterday. I used to pore over FEC reports and count down the days until filing deadlines. No longer. Nowadays, the real action is with the SuperPACs."
  • The Marathon: "Elections are won by the best long-distance runner, not the best sprinter. Pay. No. Attention. To. Horse. Race. Polls. They are stupid and meaningless at this point. Pay more attention to each candidate's core vulnerability."
At the end of the day, when you put all the assets and liabilities on the table, it's hard to see anyone but Rubio, Bush or Walker as the ultimate nominee. Sure, one of them could stumble or come up short in a key early state. It's also highly likely that someone like Huckabee, Paul, Cruz and even Perry could win in Iowa. But, when you look at the candidate vulnerabilities instead of just their assets, these are the three who are the most likely to win over the largest share of the GOP electorate. Winning the "Evangelical" or the "Establishment" or the "Tea Party" lane isn't how you win the nomination. Cobbling together the broadest coalition is the key.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


American voters say 54 - 38 percent that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, a lower score than top Republicans. Voters say 62 - 34 percent that she has strong leadership qualities, besting Republican men by margins of 10 percentage points or higher.

Voters are divided 47 - 47 percent on whether she cares about their needs and problems. Paul cares, voters say 43 - 35 percent, the best score on this point among Republicans.

Voters approve 50 - 45 percent of the job Clinton did as Secretary of State. They support 53 - 43 percent a Congressional investigation into her e-mail use, but say 51 - 44 percent that such an investigation would be politically motivated rather than justified.

American voters give Clinton a split 46 - 47 percent favorability rating. Rubio's favorability score is 35 - 25 percent. Other Republicans get negative or divided scores:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Rubio Had a Good Week

Russ Choma reports at Open Secrets:
The nascent presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio has its hurdles — not the least of which is trying to emerge from the shadow of a more senior fellow Floridian and White House hopeful. But the latest Federal Election Commission filings show that some big donors seem to want him in the game. Last week, the report of the Rubio Victory Fund, a committee that raises money for both his Senate campaign committee and his leadership PAC, showcased donations from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, who combined to be the biggest campaign donors of the 2012 cycle. And numerous other donors with serious credibility in the fundraising world have chipped into Rubio’s nonpresidential efforts. While those who contribute to a candidate’s existing committees won’t necessarily shell out for a presidential effort, the most recent Rubio Victory Fund filings are a warning to anyone still underestimating the senator’s appeal to big dollar donors.
The biggest name was Adelson — who, according to a new report, indeed may be close to a decision to throw, at a minimum, tens of millions behind Rubio’s White House bid. In 2012, he and his wife, Miriam, donated more than $92 million to conservative super PACs, making them the largest donors in a single cycle in history. Last fall, Adelson’s daughter, Shelly Adelson, and son-in-law Patrick Dumont both donated to Rubio’s leadership PAC. On Jan. 19, just days before Rubio first signaled he would likely run for president, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson each contributed $10,200 to the Rubio Victory Fund.
Quinnipiac reports:
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wins the support of 15 percent of Republican primary voters and runs best against Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.

The former secretary of state tops the Democratic field with 60 percent and leads top Republican contenders, except Sen. Rubio, in head-to-head matchups, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

The Republican primary field shows Rubio with 15 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with 13 percent and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 11 percent. No other candidate tops 9 percent and 14 percent remain undecided.

Bush tops the "no way" list as 17 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him. New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie is next with 16 percent who give him a definite thumbs down, with 10 percent for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.


"The youngest member of the GOP presidential posse moves to the front of the pack to challenge Hillary Clinton whose position in her own party appears rock solid," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

"This is the kind of survey that shoots adrenalin into a campaign. Marco Rubio gets strong enough numbers and favorability ratings to look like a legit threat to Hillary Clinton."
Dana Blanton reports at Fox:
The Bush dynasty is a negative for voters and Marco Rubio is seen as a leader of the future, as the Florida senator jumps to the head of the GOP pack. The Clinton dynasty is a plus -- and even though Hillary could have an honesty problem, she dominates the Democratic side. And both the Republican faithful (with their crowded field) and the Democratic faithful (with their sole favorite) are happy with their range of 2016 choices.

These are some of the findings from the latest Fox News poll on the 2016 presidential election. Here are some more:
Announcing your candidacy helps your poll numbers. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio receives a five percentage-point bump after his April 13 announcement and has the backing of 13 percent in the race for the Republican nomination -- just a touch over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who gets 12 percent among self-identified GOP primary voters. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul comes in at 10 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee earn 9 percent each and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gets 8 percent.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Clinton Money issues

At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait nicely summarizes some fresh mud puddles in the Clinton money trail:
The news today about the Clintons all fleshes out, in one way or another, their lack of interest in policing serious conflict-of-interest problems that arise in their overlapping roles:
  • The New York Times has a report about the State Department’s decision to approve the sale of Uranium mines to a Russian company that donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, and that a Russian investment bank promoting the deal paid Bill $500,000 for a speech in Moscow.
  • The Washington Post reports that Bill Clinton has received $26 million in speaking fees from entities that also donated to the Clinton Global Initiative.
  • The Washington Examiner reports, “Twenty-two of the 37 corporations nominated for a prestigious State Department award — and six of the eight ultimate winners — while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State were also donors to the Clinton family foundation.”
  • And Reuters reports, “Hillary Clinton's family's charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Applied Conservatism and the Conservative Reform Network

At The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes writes of the GOP politics of ideas, focusing on the Conservative Reform Network (formerly the Young Guns Network):
GOP presidential candidates were among the first to notice. Florida senator Marco Rubio, who announced for president last week, met several times with a group of conservative intellectuals last year. Now his agenda, notably on taxes, echoes their ideas. So does his new book, American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.
When Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, came to Washington in February, he made a point of huddling with five policy experts associated with the Conservative Reform Network. One of them, CRN policy director April Ponnuru, wound up being hired. She will soon join the Bush campaign as an adviser.
CRN, which brings together reform-minded Republicans and think tank scholars, is a leader in the conservative idea business. It has spurred a fresh flow of proposals, policies, talking points, and new ways of thinking, mostly based on a concept called “applied conservatism.”
Democrats have nothing to match this GOP idea machine. Their allegiance to identity politics and obeisance to liberal interest groups has led to a commitment to policies from the New Deal and Great Society. Their newest idea is increasing Social Security benefits, itself an old idea. Liberals are “intellectually defunct,” says John Murray, an adviser to former House majority leader Eric Cantor and now CRN chairman.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"A Perfect Bridge Partner"

At National Journal, Tim Alberta and Shane Goldmacher note that Mike Murphy is working for Bush's super PAC, not his campaign.
That Bush's team would believe it's in his best interest to send away a top strategist is an emphatic indication that the era of super PAC supremacy has arrived. Viewed at the outset of the 2012 presidential cycle as illegitimate if not downright unethical—so much so that President Obama initially forbade his lieutenants from forming one on his behalf—super PACs emerged by Election Day 2012 as the most devastating force in modern presidential politics. Their ability to raise bottomless money, and the deployment of those funds toward destroying rival candidates, instantly altered the political landscape, and in the 2016 campaign's nascent stages, their reach has dwarfed that of official campaigns.

When presidential contenders Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio officially jumped into the presidential race in recent weeks, each was accompanied by at least one supportive super PAC. Allies of Cruz operating a constellation of super PACs have bragged about pulling in $31 million in a single week—nearly eight times the haul Cruz's official campaign team had been boasting about. Others, like Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Perry, are officially still mulling whether to run, yet there are already supportive super PAC operations up and running.
"They have so radically changed the game that serious candidates for president cannot, will not be able to compete without a very substantial super PAC or set of super PACs," says Gregg Phillips, who was a 2012 strategist for the pro–Newt Gingrich group Winning Our Future. "If you're a candidate, you have to raise money in $2,700 increments. If you're a super PAC, you can raise money in million-dollar chunks."
The PACs' newfound prominence, and their accompanying restrictions on communication, makes decisions about whom candidates tap to run his or her super PAC all the more complicated: It must be someone they trust, and someone who knows them well enough to channel their gut political instincts on matters of strategy and messaging, but not someone on whom the candidate depends for day-in, day-out counsel. (Those who are out of office, like Bush, are taking advantage of loose rules and enforcement to work in tandem with their super PACs during their pre-candidacy phase.)

Candidates are looking for the political equivalent of a perfect bridge partner, someone with whom they can continually cooperate without ever being able to coordinate—or ever ask for advice. The imperative for a candidate is to choose "someone you love but can live without," says Stuart Roy, who in 2012 advised the pro–Rick Santorum super PAC the Red White and Blue Fund. "It ranks right there with the top personnel decisions that a campaign makes for an entire cycle."