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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kamala Harris: Unknown but Favored

Seema Mehta reports at The Los Angeles Times:
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, the only major candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer, is unknown by more than half the state's registered voters, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.
Even more — six in 10 — have no impression of her, favorable or dim.
The primary election is more than a year away, giving Harris, a Democrat, ample opportunity to raise enough money to introduce herself to California's nearly 18 million registered voters. But voters' lack of knowledge about Harris — a state official since 2011 — presents an opportunity for a challenger.
A well-financed Democratic challenger might be able to make a go of it, but a Republican?  Tony Quinn doubts it:
Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is becoming more and more the inevitable successor to Sen. Barbara Boxer, but one thing will assure Harris’s election, and that is if a Republican ends up in the top two runoff against her. It is impossible for any Republican to be elected United States Senator from California.
That is because federal offices have become the symbol of our polarized nation. Consider Sen. James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma. Inhofe is congress’s leading climate change denier; he regularly calls global warming a fraud and a hoax. So you would think he would be seriously challenged when he ran for re-election last year, but you would be wrong. Inhofe won re-election in Oklahoma by 68 percent.
That’s because Oklahoma is a solidly Republican state; there are no Democrats in its congressional delegation. Its voters are perfectly happy with Inhofe, especially since he has now replaced Boxer as the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
But would Californians ever vote for climate change denier Inhofe? Fat chance. However, a vote for a Republican candidate for US Senate in 2016 would be a vote to keep Inhofe as chairman of the environmental committee. Californians would not do that.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Obama and Spock

After the passing of Leonard Nimoy, President Obama said:  "I loved Spock."

Indeed, comparisons between the president and the Vulcan have long been a staple of mass media:

President Obama, interview with Newsweek's Jon Meacham, May 15, 2009
Now, movies I've been doing OK [with] because it turns out we got this nice theater on the ground floor of my house … So Star Trek, we saw this weekend, which I thought was good. Everybody was saying I was Spock, so I figured I should check it out and—[the president makes the Vulcan salute with his hand].
David Jackson, USA Today, December 22, 2012:
President Obama is rejecting comparisons to Mr. Spock, the emotion-less Vulcan character on Star Trek.
Asked by Barbara Walters of ABC News what the biggest misconception of him is, Obama replied: "Me being detached, or Spock-like, or very analytical."
 Jeff Greenwald in Salon, May 7, 2009: 
Like Spock, part of what makes Obama so appealing is the fact that although he’s an outsider — “proudly alien,” as Leonard Nimoy once put it — he uses that distance to cultivate a sense of perspective. And while we’re drawn to Spock’s exotic traits — the pointy ears, green blood and weird mating rituals — we take comfort in his soothing baritone, prominent nose and ordinary teeth.
Maureen Dodd in The New York Times, February 28, 2009:
Speaking of the Enterprise, Mr. Obama has a bit of Mr. Spock in him (and not just the funny ears). He has a Vulcan-like logic and detachment. Any mere mortal who had to tell liberals that our obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from over and tell Republicans that he has a $3.6 trillion budget would probably have tears running down his face.
Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, May 9, 2009:
In the “Star Trek” prequel, Spock’s father tells him, “You will always be a child of two worlds,” urging him not to keep such a tight vise on his emotions. And Spandexy Old Spock, known as Spock Prime, tells his younger self: “Put aside logic. Do what feels right.”
Mr. Obama is also a control freak who learned to temper, if not purge, all emotion. But as a young man of mixed blood, he was more adept than Young Spock at learning to adjust his two sides to charm both worlds, and to balance his cerebral air with his talent for evoking intense emotion. 
John Dickerson in Slate, May 18, 2009:
Obama is often compared to Spock because he never gets too hot or too cool and speaks in the careful way of a logician. But the president and the fictional character seem to have the same kind of empathy, too
At Bloomberg, Joshua Green disputed Matthew Yglesias over the Spock analogy, October 24, 2014:
Of the president’s response to Ebola, I wrote, “Obama’s Spock-like demeanor and hollow assurances about what experts are telling him feel incongruous.” This prompts the following unhinged, pro-Spock rant from Yglesias:
Critics, including Green, like to satirize Obama’s cool by comparing him to Spock. But Spock, though often played for laughs, was a damn fine officer. His clear thinking not only saved the Enterprise on countless occasions but was instrumental in brokering a historic peace accord between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
Look, my point was merely that Obama isn’t the most commanding public speaker. I did not mean to malign Mr. Spock or the broader Trekkie community. In hindsight, I might have used a more balanced Trekkie analogy, such as one later suggested by Bloomberg’s White House editor (and Trekkie?) Joe Sobczyk: “The public wants Captain Kirk in the Oval Office and is getting Spock instead.” I’ll try harder next time.

Jeb: You're With Me or Against Me

Michael Barbaro and Maggie Haberman write at The New York Times:
Mr. Bush has vowed to run a “joyful” presidential campaign free from the seamier sides of party politics, projecting the air of a cerebral man almost effortlessly drawing together Republicans eager to help him seek the White House. But behind the scenes, he and his aides have pursued the nation’s top campaign donors, political operatives and policy experts with a relentlessness and, in the eyes of rivals, ruthlessness that can seem discordant with his upbeat tone.
Their message, according to dozens of interviews, is blunt: They want the top talent now, they have no interest in sharing, and they will remember those who signed on early — and, implicitly, those who did not. The aim is not just to position Mr. Bush as a formidable front-runner for the Republican nomination, but also to rapidly lock up the highest-caliber figures in the Republican Party and elbow out rivals by making it all but impossible for them to assemble a high-octane campaign team.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

More Questions on HRC and Foreign Money

Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger write at The Washington Post:
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.
Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.
The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.
The new disclosures, provided in response to questions from The Washington Post, make clear that the 2008 agreement did not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the U.S. government from giving money to the charity closely linked to the secretary of state.
In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government.

The money was given to assist with earthquake relief in Haiti, the foundation said. At the time, Algeria, which has sought a closer relationship with Washington, was spending heavily to lobby the State Department on human rights issues.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Early Polls

PPP's  national  poll has Walker is at 25% to 18% for Ben Carson, 17% for Jeb Bush, 10%
for Mike Huckabee. Chris Christie and Ted Cruz at 5%, Rand Paul at 4%, and Rick Perry and Marco Rubio at 3%.

In South Carolina, PPP  has Bush in a statistical tie with Walker 19%-18%.  Carson and Graham tie for in third at 13%, Huckabee with 12%, the rest in single digits.

Quinnipiac has Walker at 25% among likely Iowa Republican caucus participants with 13% for Paul, 11 %each for Carson and Huckabee and 10 % for Jeb Bush. No other candidate is above 5% and 9% are undecided.  In a combination of first and second choices, Walker has 37%, with 21% percent for Paul, 20% for Bush, 19% for Carson and 18%  for Huckabee.

The Field Poll finds Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 18%, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at 16%, holding a small lead in California over a host of other Republican hopefuls who divide another 47% of the vote. About one in five likely GOP primary voters (19%) are undecided.

..................................First Choice Second Choice
1. Ted Cruz .................20% .............12%
2. Scott Walker ...........19 ................15
3. Jeb Bush ...................9 ................6
4. Ben Carson ...............9 ................13
5. Rick Perry ................8 ..................8
6. Mike Huckabee ........5 ..................7
7. Rand Paul .................4 ................7
8. Marco Rubio ............4 ..................7

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bush and Grant

Jay Cost compares Jeb Bush to US Grant.  At the 1880 GOP convention, 306 delegates backed him for a third term.
To be clear: the Bushes certainly are not spoilsmen. They play politics with sharp elbows, just like anybody else at that level, but the Bush ethos of civic duty places them far above the grubby pay-to-play politics of the Gilded Age. And yet there is today a class of professional politicians -- a modern group of consultants, advisors, donors, lobbyists etc. -- who prospered under 12 years of Bush presidencies. They are eager for a Bush restoration in 2016, just as the Stalwarts were clamoring for a return to Grantism in 1880.
Meanwhile, the broader GOP electorate seems wary, at best. At this point in the 2000 cycle, George W. Bush was polling upwards of 40 percent nationwide. By the end of 1999 it would rise to 60 percent. According to RCP, Jeb currently is clocking in under 15 percent -- even though he is at least as well known now as his brother was in early 1999. There is clearly a hesitancy among the rest of the party -- i.e. those who do not draw a living from politics -- for a Bush restoration.
This points to Jeb’s big challenge. He might be able to attract his own version of the “Immortal 306,” corralling a sizeable portion of the GOP’s professional class, but as Grant’s experience in 1880 illustrates, that is not enough. One has to make a broader offer to the party. In 1880, Grant failed to do that. The logic of a Grant restoration made little sense that year -- at least to those who did not draw a living from politics. Hence, he never made it past those core supporters. The country, and for that matter much of the Republican party, had moved on. So Grant lost.

Monday, February 23, 2015

HRC's Money Issue

American Crossroads is using the foreign money issue against Hillary Clinton.  (The audio is Elizabeth Warren.)


At AP, Ken Thomas provides some background:
The foundation launched by former President Bill Clinton more than a decade ago has battled HIV and AIDS in Africa, educated millions of children and fed the poor and hungry around the globe. It also has the potential to become a political risk for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she moves toward a second presidential campaign.
The former secretary of state has struggled with some recent bad headlines over large donations given to the foundation by foreign governments in the past two years, and the $200 million-plus the organization has raised since 2013, ahead of her anticipated White House campaign.

James Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus report at The Wall Street Journal:
Among recent secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton was one of the most aggressive global cheerleaders for American companies, pushing governments to sign deals and change policies to the advantage of corporate giants such as General Electric Co. , Exxon MobilCorp. , Microsoft Corp. and Boeing Co.
At the same time, those companies were among the many that gave to the Clinton family’s global foundation set up by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. At least 60 companies that lobbied the State Department during her tenure donated a total of more than $26 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of public and foundation disclosures.
President Barack Obama ’s transition team worried enough about potential problems stemming from Clinton-organization fundraising while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state that it asked Mr. Clinton to quit raising money from foreign governments for the Clinton Global Initiative and to seek approval for paid speaking engagements, which he did. The transition team didn’t put limits on corporate fundraising.
The foundation resumed soliciting foreign governments after Mrs. Clinton left the State Department. The official name of the foundation was changed to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Mrs. Clinton became a director. All told, the Clinton Foundation and its affiliates have collected donations and pledges from all sources of more than $1.6 billion, according to their tax returns. On Thursday, the foundation said that if Mrs. Clinton runs for president, it would consider whether to continue accepting foreign-government contributions as part of an internal policy review.