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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reid Retires

Harry Reid has announced his retirement. As Buzzfeed, John Stanton takes a skeptical look at his career.
[O]ver the last 12 years, Reid has increasingly leaned on his pugnacious side as he picked often personally bitter fights with Republicans. And as Reid became increasingly consumed with fighting first President George W. Bush, then Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and then Mitt Romney, his conference — and the Senate — followed suit.

At the behest of the White House, Reid used his political muscle to force through Obamacare with virtually no Republican support, eschewing the time honored traditions of the chamber.

Following the 2010 rise of the Tea Party, legislating essentially came to an end in the Senate, which held fewer and fewer votes as partisan warfare took hold. Then, Reid spent most of 2012 using the Senate as a platform to wage war against Romney and any Republican who happened to be in his way.

And, again, the chamber followed suit. Aside from a bipartisan immigration bill that died in the House, the Senate essentially ground to a halt. Days, weeks would go by between procedural votes as Republicans filibustered virtually anything Reid put on the floor.

True, Reid had plenty of help from Republicans. Immediately following President Obama’s election, McConnell and other top Republicans vowed to blockade anything the new president sought to pass. And when Republicans retook the House in 2010, conservatives insisted on a brand of confrontational politics that essentially precluded the notion of compromise.
But Reid’s role in transforming the Senate into a partisan Thunderdome is all the more remarkable because of his past devotion to the institution’s rules and social mores. Last year, the same man who railed against former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for considering changing the filibuster rules and who bitterly criticized Bush’s use of signing statements and executive orders, suddenly championed not only the end of filibusters for most nominations but President Obama’s use of executive power in the absence of congressional action.

Jeb Bush and Christian Conservatives

Tim Alberta and Tiffany Stanley write at National Journal:
[P]owerful Christian conservatives are operating what amounts to a stealth campaign on Bush's behalf. Some are old allies from the Florida days; others are holdovers from George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Some are both, including Ralph Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a longtime friend of Jeb's who served as Southeast regional chairman of George W.'s 2004 reelection effort (and thus practically lived in Florida). Multiple GOP sources say that Reed has been urging Jeb Bush for several years to make a 2016 run and spoke with him recently to game out the campaign. Like many of the organizations that Bush's supporters lead, Reed's coalition demands impartiality from its leaders, so Reed can't openly back his man—unless, as some suspect will happen, Reed ultimately decides to join the campaign officially. (Reed declined to comment for this story.)
While the candidate isn't hitting the hustings to woo rank-and-file Christian voters, he's been busy surreptitiously building a formidable coalition of socially conservative luminaries. Last summer, Bush flew to Colorado for a private luncheon with the brass of Focus on the Family. Several of America's best-connected evangelicals broke bread with Bush, including Jim Daly, Focus's president, whose radio program reaches a large, loyal audience, and Tim Goeglein, who was the faith liaison in George W. Bush's White House. People familiar with the meeting—and unaffiliated with Bush—say the former governor made a striking impression, one that echoed through the uppermost echelons of the evangelical world. (Neither Daly nor Goeglein would comment.)
...
In this endeavor, his old friend Jim Towey will be a key asset. When Bush first ran for governor in 1994, Towey was on the other side, serving as Gov. Chiles's director of Florida's Health and Human Services agency. The loss that sparked Bush's conversion led to an after-election lunch with Towey, a relative stranger but also a high-profile Catholic whose brain Bush was eager to pick. The two quickly became the closest of friends, and that friendship, in turn, led to Towey's appointment as the second director of George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives. Towey is now president of Miami's Ave Maria University, one of the nation's foremost incubators of conservative Catholic doctrine, while serving unofficially as Bush's point man for religious outreach.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Biden

Why is nobody taking Vice President Biden seriously as a potential presidential candidate?  According to Nick Gass at Politico, Former Representative Barney Frank has some thoughts:
Joe is his own worst enemy,” Frank said on “PoliticKING with Larry King” on Ora.tv. “He’s a very bright guy, very good values,” Frank said, noting the vice president’s years-old plan to divide Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish sections. “But he just — he can’t keep his mouth shut or his hands to himself.”

“It’s out of good intentions, but I think he has unfortunately diminished people’s perception of his abilities,” Frank added.
The vice president drew unwanted attention last month for putting his hands on the shoulders and whispering into the ear of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s wife, Stephanie, while her husband spoke.
Stephanie Carter later said she wasn’t offended, but the close contact became fodder for late-night jokes and memes on social media.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Conservatives Coalesce Around a Consensus Candidate?

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter explains why it will be tough for conservatives to coalesce around a consensus candidate:
First, despite the rise of the Tea Party, the overall primary electorate is majority "somewhat conservative" to "moderate" in ideology. In 2012, according to exit polling, 34 percent of the GOP electorate defined itself as "very conservative", while the other 57 percent defined themselves as either "somewhat conservative" (33 percent), or "moderate," (24 percent). This obviously fluctuates state by state with almost half of Iowa caucuses goers defining themselves as very conservative and 35 percent of New Hampshire Republicans identifying themselves as moderate. Even so, taken as a whole, the GOP electorate is not as ideologically aligned to the far right some make it out to be.
Then there's that fact that in a field as crowded as this one, it's hard to believe that any candidate is going to get the "very conservative" space to him/her self. In 2012, Mitt Romney was the obvious establishment candidate. The three anti-establishment candidates (Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul), split up that very conservative vote. Santorum took the lions' share with 36 percent, but Gingrich took another 26 percent and Paul siphoned off 7 percent. Meanwhile, Romney took almost half (46 percent) of the somewhat conservative and 48 percent of the moderate vote. In 2016, Ted Cruz, who is clearly gunning to be the face of the conservative wing of the party, will face a crowded field of candidates for that space including Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

Billionaires Bump Bundlers

At The Washington Post, Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger ask:  who needs a bundler when you have a billionaire?
“A couple presidential elections ago, somebody who had raised, say, $100,000 for a candidate was viewed as a fairly valuable asset,” said Washington lobbyist Kenneth Kies. “Today, that looks like peanuts. People like me are probably looking around saying, ‘How can I do anything that even registers on the Richter scale?’ ”
[Why super PACs have moved from sideshow to center stage]
Consider the scene last weekend in South Florida, where top supporters of the Republican National Committee gathered for their spring retreat at a luxury resort in Boca Raton. In the past, members of the RNC’s Regent and Team 100 donor programs attracted the focused attention of presidential aspirants. But this time, there were distractions.

A number of White House contenders in attendance — including former Texas governor Rick Perry and Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.), Chris Christie (N.J.) and Bobby Jindal (La.) — devoted much of their time to private meetings with high rollers, according to people familiar with their schedules. Bush came to Boca Raton after an afternoon super-PAC fundraiser in Miami.
Then on Sunday, the governors made a pilgrimage to Palm Beach for a private Republican Governors Association fundraiser hosted by billionaire industrialist David Koch at his 30,000-square-foot beachfront mansion.

In the words of one veteran GOP fundraiser, traditional bundlers have been sent down to the “minor leagues,” while mega-donors are “the major league players.”
The old-school fundraisers have been temporarily displaced in the early money chase because of the rise of super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations. This year, White House hopefuls are rushing to raise money for the groups before they declare their candidacies and have to keep their distance.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Baker and the WASPs

Lloyd Green writes at The Daily Beast:
Since Baker’s forced retirement in 1993 at the hands of Bill Clinton, both America and the GOP have changed. The Republican Party has increasingly become an assembly of White America at Worship, an America that vividly and painfully remembers 9/11, and for whom Islam and ISIS spell a real and personalized threat and challenge. In 2012, Evangelicals comprised just over half of all Republican primary voters in contested states, and their views predominate. 
In other words, the Republican Party is no longer the party of a WASP Establishment, just as Mainline Protestantism no longer defines the American religious mainstream. And Baker’s view on the two-state solution is a casualty.
Still, it’s not just about demographics. The fact that Baker’s take on the Middle East lacks a natural home within the GOP is not mere happenstance, and Baker himself had had a hand in that, however unintentionally.
In case anybody forgot, it was Baker who reportedly mouthed off “Screw the Jews. They don’t vote for us anyway,” and on a certain level Baker got it right. Taking Baker’s words to heart, Jewish voters stuck it to Bush and Baker. In 1992, Bush won just 11 percent of the Jewish vote, down from 35 percent just four years earlier.
Enter the neoconservatives, who were alarmed by Baker, but who were also disturbed by the Democrats social liberalism, and disgusted by the Ghost of George McGovern.
According to TheWeekly Standard’s William Kristol, “the big story in the Republican Party over the last 30 years… is first the eclipsing of I’d say the [George H.W.] Bush [Brent] Scowcroft [James] Baker traditional—it’s unfair to say— hostility to Israel— but lack of closeness and warmth for Israel.” Feeling Israel in one’s kishkes is now another requirement for seeking the Republican presidential nod, at least according to Kristol.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cruz's Challenges

Katie Glueck reports at Politico:
When Ted Cruz officially launched his presidential bid on Monday, he joined the ranks of a group with a dismal recent track record. No other first-in candidate has won the presidency in the past 15 years, and only one, Al Gore, has even clinched a party nomination.
...
“It has nothing to do with getting in first. It has to do with, most of the time, the establishment candidates get nominated by both parties,” said Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor whose launch of an exploratory committee early two years before the 2004 election helped him lay the groundwork to achieve frontrunner status, even if it was short-lived. “It’s a function of the fact that those who get in first are usually fighting an uphill battle from the beginning.”
Anna Palmer writes at Politico:
After the theatrical launch of his presidential campaign Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz now faces a massive hurdle: raising the tens of millions of dollars it will take to mount a year-and-a-half long campaign.
The Texas Republican and tea party darling is months behind his competitors in recruiting the megadonors and bundlers essential to a credible GOP primary bid. He’s not well-liked among cash-flush lobbyists. And his uncompromising policy positions and role in forcing the government shutdown in 2013 didn’t exactly excite the financiers and business executives who make up the elite donor class. Those considerations, along with the need to capture attention in a crowded field of conservatives, contributed to the decision to become the first Republican to formally enter the race.
Manu Raju reports that John Cornyn is not endorsing Cruz, proving that the world is round.
“You know, we’ve got a lot of Texans who are running for president, so I’m going to watch from the sidelines,” Cornyn said when asked if he would back Cruz. (Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is considering a run as well.)
Cornyn denied his position was retribution for Cruz’s refusal to back him during his Senate primary last year.